3 Retired Numbers of the Hartford Whalers That Were Unretired by the Carolina Hurricanes
The New England Whalers began play in the World Hockey Association in the rebel league’s inaugural season, 1972-73. The Whalers were one of four teams to survive through the lifetime of the WHA and merge with the National Hockey League for the 1979-80 season. The team was then renamed the Hartford Whalers and remained until the end of the 1996-97 season when they were relocated south to North Carolina where they became the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Whalers retired the jersey numbers of three players that played important roles during the team’s WHA days. The Carolina Hurricanes have disrespected those numbers by putting them back into circulation. Shame on the Hurricanes.
Rick Ley was positioned on the blue line for the New England Whalers throughout the duration of their WHA existence. His number 2 was retired by the team. Ley began his professional hockey league career with the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs in 1968-69, after a stellar four year junior hockey career with the OHA’s Niagara Falls Flyers. With the Flyers, Rick won the Memorial Cup in his first and last seasons.
In all, Rick Ley played 478 regular season WHA games with an additional 73 in the Avco Cup playoffs. He was team captain for six of those seven seasons. Ley carried on with the Hartford Whalers of the NHL for two seasons before retiring. Rick returned to the Whalers as head coach for the 1989-90 and 1990-91 seasons.
Like the Detroit Red Wings, the Whalers also retired the number 9 of the great Gordie Howe. After an extensive NHL career, Howe came out of retirement to play in the WHA in 1973-74. He played his first four seasons with the Houston Aeros and his final two with the New England Whalers. He stayed on for one season after the team merged into the National Hockey League. Howe played a total of 419 WHA regular season games, contributing 508 points during that time. He played an additional 78 WHA playoff games. In 1977-78, Gordie led the team with 96 points.
John ‘Pie’ McKenzie played three seasons with the New England Whalers and retired instead of returning to the NHL in 1979-80. The Whalers retired his number 19. McKenzie was in the WHA for the lifetime of the league, beginning in 1972-73 with the Philadelphia Blazers and playing for the Vancouver Blazers, Minnesota Fighting Saints and Cincinnati Stingers on his way to New England.
John played two years of junior hockey with the St. Catherines Teepees of the OHA, 1956-57 and 1957-58. He led the team in points both season, out-gunning the likes of Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Chico Maki. In his final season, he totalled 99 points in 52 games, earning him the Eddie Powers Trophy as the league’s top scorer. McKenzie played in the NHL from 1959-60 until 1971-72 with the Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers and Boston Bruins. He played 477 regular season games in the WHA.