Things may have become a little bit uncomfortable for viewers of the New England Sports Network during the third period of the Carolina Hurricanes’ 5-3 win over the Boston Bruins on Sunday evening.
In a nod to their franchise’s past, the Hurricanes decided to wear Hartford Whalers jerseys for the contest. The green sweaters, with one of the sharpest logos in league history, were well-received by ‘Canes fans and the league alike. Furthermore, the move provided Whalers fans with a nice, logical opportunity to wear their old threads to an NHL rink for the first time since the Whalers moved out of Connecticut in 1997.
One man that wasn’t too happy was Boston’s play-by-play commentator, Jack Edwards. The voice of the Bruins on NESN for over a decade, Edwards made his thoughts about the number that Carolina blueliner Dougie Hamilton was wearing crystal clear.
The 61-year-old took to Twitter before the game even began to share his displeasure.
Dougie Hamilton wears Whalers #19 in a display of either complete ignorance or just a complete disconnect from the culture that makes hockey so great. The HFD/CAR franchise retired that number long ago. RIP, John "Pie" McKenzie. This is incredibly disrespectful to Pie's memory. pic.twitter.com/0O1iynbFDC
— Jack Edwards (@RealJackEdwards) December 23, 2018
Hamilton, who was acquired by Carolina in a trade with the Calgary Flames over the summer, has been wearing No. 19 all season. However, the point that Edwards made was that if the Hurricanes wanted to reflect on their franchise’s history by wearing Whalers jerseys, they should respect the numbers that had been retired by Hartford.
When his career with the then-New England Whalers of the World Hockey Association came to an end in 1979, the late John McKenzie’s No. 19 was retired by the organization. The ceremony actually took place in 1980 during the team’s first season in the NHL as the Hartford Whalers. This is where things begin to get a little grey.
When the franchise relocated to North Carolina, Gordie Howe’s No. 9 remained retired while McKenzie’s No. 19 and Rick Ley’s No. 2 became available again. While No. 2 has since been retired (again) for Glen Wesley in 2009 following his long tenure with the team, No. 19 has been worn by many Hurricanes since, according to Jace Evans of USA TODAY.
With the history of the franchise and the number in mind, the issues with the fact Hamilton wore No. 19 during the game his team donned Whalers jerseys become more apparent.
And Edwards wanted to make sure that everybody was aware of the situation.
As promised, here’s the Jack Edwards rant on Carolina allowing Dougie Hamilton to wear John McKenzie’s retired No. 19 Whalers jersey pic.twitter.com/w9SHjP3mo4
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 24, 2018
“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,” said the man that describes himself as “passionate” and “a little crazy” in his Twitter bio.
“It shows the disconnect between the Carolina marketing department and hockey history,” he added.
The clip is over two minutes, but doesn’t even include the tail end of his rant.
From the outside looking in, he brings up a good point. However, as Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports tweeted on Sunday night, the whole thing felt too much like an attack on Hamilton, the Bruins’ ninth overall pick in the 2011 draft who spent the first three seasons of his NHL career in Boston.
Edwards makes it sound as if the 25-year-old defenceman knowingly hit the ice wearing the number on a Whalers jersey with the intent of spitting on Hartford’s history. Furthermore, calling him “a much lesser (player) at that” when compared to McKenzie was highly unnecessary. By doing so, Edwards really hurt his argument in the process.
Whether you agree with him or not, we only know half of the story. Hamilton shouldn’t be expected to know the history of his number within the franchise. This was a failure by the organization. They should have brought this to the attention of Hamilton well before the game and made the decision to not allow him to wear his No. 19 for the evening or gave him the choice to wear another.
If he would have still gone out with his number, it would have been a decision that he’d have to face the consequences for. From what we know, this just looks like an ignorant, innocent mistake that has been blown out of proportion.
Carolina plans to wear the Whalers jerseys again when they travel to Boston to play the Bruins in March. Hopefully, they’ll take the opportunity to make this right.
More NHL coverage on Yahoo Sports Canada: