Carolina Hurricanes History
The Carolina Hurricanes are one of five teams in the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). The club plays at the Raleigh Entertainment and Sports Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina, and wears uniforms of red, black, and white. The team name and logo are taken from the high-velocity wind storms that often strike North Carolina’s Atlantic seaboard in late fall and winter.
Before becoming the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997, the franchise played as the New England Whalers in the World Hockey Association (WHA) from 1972 to 1978, and as the Hartford Whalers in the NHL from 1979 to 1997.
As members of the Eastern Division of the WHA during the 1970s, the Whalers earned three division titles and one league championship. From 1977 to 1980 right wing Gordie Howe and two of his sons, Mark and Marty Howe, both defensemen, played for the Whalers. In the 1980s and 1990s Hartford qualified for the NHL playoffs for seven consecutive seasons with lineups starring center Ron Francis and goalie Mike Liut. As the Hurricanes, the franchise reached its first Stanley Cup Finals in 2002.
The New England Whalers became charter members of the 12-team WHA in 1972 and were based in Boston, Massachusetts. In their first season, under the direction of head coach Jack Kelley, formerly of Boston University, the Whalers won their division. They then went on to defeat the Winnipeg Jets in the WHA Finals to capture the league championship. Center Terry Caffery and right wing Tom Webster led the team in scoring.
In 1974 the Whalers relocated to Hartford, Connecticut. They were WHA Eastern Division winners again in both 1974 and 1975, but lost in the first round of the playoffs each year. In 1977, 49-year-old Gordie Howe, who had already been named to the Hockey Hall of Fame, and his sons Mark and Marty joined the team. Gordie and Mark produced top scoring efforts that year, powering New England to a second trip to the WHA Finals. The Whalers lost the series to the Jets, whose offense was led by left wing Bobby Hull.
In 1979 the Whalers joined the NHL after the WHA and NHL merged. That same year the team changed its name to the Hartford Whalers. Gordie Howe played one more year with the team before retiring in 1980 at age 52.
The Whalers struggled in the late 1970s and early 1980s, posting six consecutive losing records from 1979-80 to 1984-85. The club’s standouts included center Mike Rogers, right wing Blaine Stoughton, and goalie Steve Weeks. Mike Liut led Hartford to its first NHL winning season in the 1985-86 campaign. The Whalers then advanced to the second round of the playoffs, defeating the Québec Nordiques before being eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Montréal Canadiens. In 1987 Liut represented the team at the NHL All-Star Game, and for the season he led the league with four shutouts. Also that season, center Doug Jarvis won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s most dedicated player.
Every season from 1986-87 to 1991-92 the Whalers qualified for the playoffs, but each year they were defeated in the first round. In the mid-1990s the Whalers were one of the weaker teams in the NHL. In addition to Francis and Liut, the team’s leading players included left wing Brendan Shanahan, right wing Pat Verbeek, right wing Kevin Dineen, left wing Geoff Sanderson, and goaltender Sean Burke.
In 1996 the club acquired center Keith Primeau in a trade with the Detroit Red Wings. Ticket sales dropped in the late 1990s, however, as the Whalers continued a streak of disappointing seasons that saw them fail to make the playoffs between 1992 and 1997. Faced with financial problems, the team owners moved the franchise to North Carolina before the 1997-98 season and renamed the team the Hurricanes. In 2001-02, the Hurricanes went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals before losing to the Detroit Red Wings.
Official Carolina Hurricanes Web Site