WHALER ALUMNI NIGHT AT YARD GOATS
BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings
HARTFORD, CT – Last Saturday night, the baseball’s local entrant in the Eastern League, the Hartford Yard Goats, paid tribute to the Hartford Whalers by giving them a tribute night on their home field, Dunkin’ Donuts Park.
The Yard Goats brought in not only former Whalers but professional hockey players from Connecticut. It was a major success all the way around. Players, fans, and media members all enjoyed a well-handled event that was promoted by the team the entire week.
The Yard Goats did everything first class. There was a charity luncheon at noon. A pre-game autograph signing session, and a first pitch toss, as well as numerous videos, played throughout the park on the concourse TV screens, by the clubhouse and on the giant left field scoreboard. Of course, “Brass Bonanza” was played every time the Yard Goats scored.
One of the engineers of the event who put it together just over the past few months was former Whaler, Bob Crawford. He stayed and raised his kids in Connecticut after his playing days ended and he’s kept his pulse on hockey here. He was proud to be involved in any Whaler alumni event. (Bob Crawford)
“The Yard Goats have been professional about this since Day One. Having been around sports, from the playing and business side of things, this was a first-class event. We started a bit late, and we had to scramble around to get phone numbers, but once we asked guys if their schedule allowed for it, they were ready and willing to come.”
For Crawford, this is just the beginning, not the end or a one-off event.
“We talked with guys just today at the luncheon, and we’re already ready for next year. Now we’ll have the time to incorporate more players, ideas, and events surrounding this. This was meant to start something and keep the Whaler name going in this community, which you can see from this turnout, but it’s to help charities we care about and promote hockey in Connecticut. This is a very good first step to use the good things to keep this in the community and expand it.”
When asked about his favorite memory of his time playing in Hartford, Crawford didn’t hesitate, “The games with the Bruins and Canadians were always big. Watching the team, the year I got here (1983) when they were coming off a season when they were the worst team in the NHL the year before. They would rebuild and progress to become one of the better teams in the conference, and I left just before they hit their peak. It was fun to see that transformation and the community support and pride then.”
His partner, the past twenty years in developing junior hockey in Connecticut, was also a big part of this day. Dan McCarthy, who, like Crawford, is a fellow Canadian, but who recently became a US citizen, was a former pro hockey player in New Haven and Springfield. He scored four goals in his five NHL games has been very active in hockey in the state was blown away by the event.
“I have been to a few events like this. The Yard Goats went above and beyond and ran this as it’s supposed to be first class. I am not a former Whaler player but did play some pro hockey and to be a part of this was a thrill to see some guys I grew up with and played against…It was an amazing day for me.”
McCarthy and his wife Lori, who worked in minor league baseball with the New Haven Ravens, are both enthusiastic supporters of minor league sports in Connecticut. McCarthy was particularly impressed with the work of the Yards Goats’ Dean Zappalorti, who serves as the Executive Director of Corporate Partnership.
“Dean and his entire staff are to be congratulated. They did well by us, the fans and the Hartford community. To keep the Whaler name and the community thriving, its great events like this, that will help things grow for everybody in this area.” Continue reading