HISTORY BY YEAR
NOVEMBER, 1971 — The World Hockey Association awards franchise to sports
enthusiasts and businessmen Howard Baldwin, John Colburn, Godfrey Wood
and William Barnes.
JANUARY, 1972 — Jack Kelley, a highly successful coach at Boston University,
joins the New England WHA franchise as coach and general manager. Newly
formed team is named “WHALERS” because it contains the letters of the new
league and it carries with it a part of the New England heritage.
APRIL 19, 1972 — Larry Pleau becomes the fi rst player to sign a Whalers contract.
Later in the month, Brad Selwood, Rick Ley and Jim Dorey from the Toronto Maple
Leafs and Tim Sheehy of Boston College/U.S. Olympic Team also join the club.
OCTOBER 12, 1972 — Whalers play their fi rst WHA game. Rebounding from a 2-0
defi cit, the Whalers defeat the visiting Philadelphia Blazers 4-3 before 14,442
spectators at the Boston Garden. Tommy Williams scores fi rst Whalers goal
and Larry Pleau collects fi rst Whalers game-winning goal.
MAY 6, 1973 — Whalers defeat Winnipeg Jets 9-6 on national television (CBS)
to gain World Trophy as the “Top Team” in the fi rst season of the WHA. Jack
Kelley is named later in month as the winner of the WHA’s Coach-of-the-Year
Trophy while forward Terry Caffery is named the WHA’s Top Rookie.
APRIL 6, 1974 — Whalers play their fi rst game in Springfi eld, Mass. by coming
back from a two-goal defi cit to defeat the Chicago Cougars in the fi rst game of
the 1974 playoffs 6-4.
JANUARY 11, 1975 — Whalers play fi rst hockey game at new Hartford Civic Center
before a sellout crowd of 10,507. After falling behind, they battle back to defeat
the San Diego Mariners 4-3 in overtime, with Garry Swain scoring at 5:45.
JANUARY 18, 1977 — Hartford plays host to the 1977 WHA All-Star Game.
The East Division defeats the West Division 4-2 as future Whalers goaltender
Louis Levasseur is selected Most Valuable Player for the East.
MAY 23, 1977 — Whalers outduel the NHL to sign the entire Howe family (Gordie,
Mark and Marty) to long-term contracts.
JANUARY 18, 1978 — At 4:30 a.m., under the weight of snow and ice, the Hartford
Civic Center Coliseum roof collapses. Springfi eld, Mass., welcomes the
Whalers back and the “91 Club” is born. Over the next two years, the Whalers
ask their fans to remain loyal while the Hartford roof is repaired and the
building enlarged. Fewer than 300 people cancel their season tickets. When
the building reopens, the “91 Club” has 4,200 members.
JUNE 22, 1979 — Whalers join the National Hockey League with three other WHA
clubs – Edmonton, Quebec and Winnipeg – as the NHL expands to 21 teams for
the 1979-80 season. The World Hockey Association offi cially ceases operation.
OCTOBER 11, 1979 — Whalers play their fi rst NHL regular-season game at
Minnesota. The North Stars win 4-1 with Gordie Roberts scoring the fi rst
Whalers NHL goal at 14:15 of the third period.
FEBRUARY 6, 1980 — After an absence of two years and 19 days, the Whalers
are “Home At Last.” The Whalers come back from a two-goal defi cit to defeat
the Los Angeles Kings 7-3 before a capacity crowd of more than 14,000 at the
Hartford Civic Center.
APRIL 6, 1980 — The Whalers defeat the Detroit Red Wings 5-3 to fi nish their fi rst
NHL season and qualify for postseason play for the eighth straight year of their
eight-year existence. The Whalers set six expansion team records.
JUNE 6, 1980 — Gordie Howe announces his retirement as a player, ending a 32-
year career. He joins the Whalers front offi ce.
FEBRUARY 18, 1981 — Gordie Howe’s number 9 is offi cially retired.
MAY 2, 1983 — Emile Francis, after building winning teams in New York and St.
Louis, joins the Whalers as president and general manager.
MARCH 24-APRIL 1, 1984 — Whalers collect seven points in their last six games
and fi nish the season as the most improved team in the NHL. They total 66
points, 21 more than the previous season, and tie or break 57 club records.
FEBRUARY, 1985 — Ron Francis becomes fi rst Whaler to play in two NHL All-Star
Games. He also is named team captain on February 22 when the Whalers
acquire Mike Liut and future considerations (Jorgen Pettersson) from St. Louis
for veterans Greg Millen and former team captain Mark Johnson.
MARCH 10-29, 1985 — Whalers go on a nine-game unbeaten streak, including a
club-record seven straight wins.
FEBRUARY 4, 1986 — The Whalers host the 38th NHL All-Star Game before a
sellout crowd of 15,126. Bryan Trottier nets the game-winner in overtime to
give the Wales Conference a thrilling 4-3 victory over the Campbell Conference
All-Stars. Sylvain Turgeon records an assist in the game.
APRIL 12, 1986 — The Whalers complete a three-game playoff sweep of regularseason
Adams Division champ Quebec with a 9-4 victory at the Civic Center.
John Anderson leads the Whalers attack with six points.
APRIL 29, 1986 — Montreal’s Claude Lemieux scores at 5:55 of overtime to
give the Canadiens a 2-1 victory over the Whalers in the seventh game of the
Adams Division Championship series.
JUNE, 1986 — Emile Francis is named NHL Executive of the Year by both The
Sporting News and The Hockey News.
DECEMBER 26, 1986 — Doug Jarvis supplants Garry Unger as the NHL’s Ironman
by participating in his 915th consecutive NHL game. In a close-checking
“Jarvis-style” contest, the Whalers skate to a 1-1 tie with Montreal.
APRIL 4, 1987 — The Whalers score three goals in less than four minutes during
the third period, overcoming a 3-2 defi cit to beat the Rangers 5-3 and clinch
fi rst place in the Adams Division.
FEBRUARY 7, 1988 — Larry Pleau is named head coach of the Hartford Whalers.
Pleau, 40, replaces Jack Evans, who served as the Whalers coach since the
FEBRUARY 9, 1988 — Kevin Dineen becomes the fi rst Whaler to start in an NHL All-
Star Game, helping lead the Wales Conference over the Campbell Conference
6-5 with two assists, including the game-winner to Mario Lemieux in overtime.
MARCH 29, 1988 — The Buffalo Sabres defeat the Quebec Nordiques 3-1, thus
eliminating the Nordiques from the playoff race and clinching a playoff spot
for the Whalers for the third straight year. The Whalers trailed the Nordiques
by three points on March 19, but made up 10 points in as many days to push
Quebec out of the playoffs.
SEPTEMBER 7, 1988 — The sale of the Hartford Whalers by the team’s 16 partners to
Donald Conrad and Richard Gordon is approved by the NHL Board of Governors.
JANUARY 20, 1989 — Gordie Howe, Rick Ley, Jack Kelley, Bob Schmertz, Frank
Keyes and Ella Grasso are honored as charter inductees of the Hartford
Whalers Hall of Fame.
MAY 11, 1989 — Ed Johnston is named vice president and general manager of the
Whalers. Emile Francis retains position as team president (formally announced
on June 6).
JUNE 7, 1989 — Former Whalers captain Rick Ley is named head coach of the
Whalers, replacing Larry Pleau.