By Bruce Berlet
HARTFORD, Conn. – Before thanking Howard Baldwin for bringing the Whale back to Hartford and proclaiming this “Connecticut Whale Week” in the state, Gov. M. Jodi Rell had a special request: Where’s Pucky?
Pucky? Who’s Pucky? Oh, he’s the mascot of the Whale, who debut on the ice Saturday night at 7 at the XL Center against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
When Pucky appeared through a doorway in the front of Rell’s office, the governor broke into a wide smile.
“I’ve entertained a lot of folks in this office over the years – dignitaries, Olympians, contestants for different shows – but I’ve never had a whale in here before,” Rell said during a 20-minute ceremony in her Capitol office Tuesday afternoon. “But the Whale is back, and as some would say, we could end that statement with a hallelujah. The fan base and loyalty to the (AHL’s Hartford) Wolf Pack has been terrific and meant a lot, but to think of all the people who have believed through the years, led by Howard, it’s wonderful to have the Whale back.
“It’s good news for the state, it’s good news for Hartford, but I think the best news is for the fans, who have been there all along. I certainly appreciate that and their efforts. I think they’ll be there in full force and be a part of making this very special.”
Because it was “such a momentous occasion,” the outgoing governor read what she believed would be one of her last proclamations declaring Nov. 21-27 as “Connecticut Whale Week.” It will culminate with the Wolf Pack officially being re-branded Saturday night with the start of the “Catch the Wave” campaign to try to revitalize the sport in the region and hopefully bring the NHL back to Hartford.
Baldwin, the former owner and managing general partner of the New England and Hartford Whalers who is now chairman and CEO of Whalers Sports and Entertainment, thanked Rell for her continued support of hockey and the Wolf Pack, who began when she was lieutenant governor and spearheaded an effort to keep the Whalers in Hartford before they left for North Carolina in 1997.
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