The Carolina Hurricanes wore the legendary jerseys of the Hartford Whalers in a game against the Boston Bruins on Sunday.
While widely loved by fans, the decision was certainly an interesting one given that the franchise moved out of Connecticut in 1997.
However, the Whalers’ history belongs to the Hurricanes, so it was certainly in their right to bust the uniforms back out. But there was another aspect of the Hurricanes’ decision that angered Bruins play-by-play man Jack Edwards: the team let Dougie Hamilton wear No. 19.
Now, Hamilton has worn No. 19 all season since he was acquired in a trade with the Calgary Flames. But No. 19 was retired by the Whalers for forward John McKenzie, who played for the then-named New England Whalers in the World Hockey Association.
Edwards, who calls games for the New England Sports Network, contended that if the Hurricanes were going to use the Whalers’ history, they must pay full tribute to them by keeping McKenzie’s number out of circulation.
“A lot of New Englanders, who were hardcore John McKenzie fans and a few New Englanders who were dear friends of the man, take great umbrage that even for a day … (Carolina) would have a number that is retired, which used to be a sacred thing, worn by another player, and a much lesser one at that,” Edwards said during the third period of the Bruins’ 5-3 loss.
“It shows the disconnect between the Carolina marketing department and hockey history,” he added.
While Gordie Howe’s No. 9 has remained retired by the team since he hung up the skates in 1980, McKenzie’s No. 19 and Rick Ley’s No. 2 were put back in use when the team moved to North Carolina. While No. 2 was eventually retired again for Glen Wesley, No. 19 has been worn fairly regularly by members of the Hurricanes.
McKenzie died this past June at the age of 80. He was a longtime member of the Bruins, helping the team to two Stanley Cup wins in the early 1970s before he left the league for the fledgling WHA. Hamilton was also drafted by the Bruins with the ninth overall pick in 2011.
The Whalers’ classic threads are set to make an appearance in Boston — site of many battles in the old Adams Division rivalry between the franchises — in March.