By Bruce Berlet


After four days off, the Whale will make a second trip to Glen Falls, N.Y., and try to complete a four-game sweep of the Adirondack Phantoms on Friday night before a bus ride home for the Whale Bowl against the Bruins on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Rentschler Field in East Hartford in the second outdoor game in AHL history.

CT WhaleThe Phantoms (17-30-3-3), a 4-3 overtime loser to Binghamton on Sunday, have lost 3-0, 4-3 and 6-4 to the Whale but have improved dramatically since a horrific 4-26-1-1 start before their first back-to-back wins Dec. 17-18. They’re led by All-Star defenseman Erik Gustafsson (five goals, 27 assists), veteran left wing Denis Hamel (team-leading 17 goals, 14 assists), defenseman Danny Syvret (6, 17), left wing Michael Ryan (15, 6) and right wing Ben Holmstrom (8, 13). Much of the Phantoms’ improvement can be traced to the arrival of goalie Michael Leighton (4-6-1-1, 2.37 goals-against average, .918 save percentage), who led the parent Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals in June but was back in the minors after he cleared waivers on Jan. 3, as the Flyers went with Brian Boucher. Meanwhile, the Chicago Blackhawks didn’t re-sign goalie Antti Niemi because of salary-cap problems. Niemi signed with the San Jose Sharks.

The Whale is at Portland on Feb. 21 at 1 p.m. and then will play their first two games in Charlotte, N.C., against the Checkers, their former ECHL affiliate, on Feb. 24 and 26. They finally return to the XL Center on March 2 to face Springfield. Their ensuing home game is March 11 against Hershey, ending a brutal stretch of 10 road games in 12. … Free agent forward Jason Williams, released from his professional tryout contract with the Whale on Friday, signed a two-way contract with the Dallas Stars on Saturday night. Williams, 30, had four goals and five assists and was a team-worst minus-13 in 17 games with Whale while still recovering from offseason groin and abdominal surgeries. Williams, part of a Stanley Cup championship with Detroit in 2002, played 44 games for the Red Wings last season. His contract is for $500,000 in the NHL and $105,000 in the minors. He made his Stars debut Sunday in a 2-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Williams has 91 goals and 129 assists in 420 NHL games.

“Jason Williams has won a Stanley Cup and brings veteran experience to our club,” Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk said. “He has the versatility to play any forward position and gives us another right-handed shot. We’re pleased that we could add him to our team.”

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The Manitoba Moose retired former captain Mike Keane’s No. 12 in a ceremony before they beat the San Antonio Rampage 5-0 on Saturday night. In five seasons with the Moose, the native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, had 36 goals and 78 assists in 365 games. He also had eight goals and 12 assists in 59 Calder Cup playoff games.

In 2007, Keane was the recipient of the AHL’s Fred T. Hunt Award for sportsmanship, determination and dedication to the game of hockey. Keane was also selected the captain of the Canadian team at the 2007 Reebok Hockey AHL All-Star Classic in Toronto and helped the Moose reach the Calder Cup finals in 2009.

In his previous 22 seasons of pro hockey, Keane won three Stanley Cups (Montreal 1993, Colorado 1996, Dallas 1999) and had 168 goals and 470 points in 1,161 NHL games with Montreal, Colorado, Dallas, the New York Rangers, St. Louis and Vancouver.

Keane also received the Order of the Buffalo Hunt from the Province of Manitoba, the highest honor the province can bestow on an individual who has demonstrated outstanding skills in the area of leadership, service and community commitment. He also received a commissioned, one-of-a-kind graphic painting, illustrated by sports artist Steve Dittberner, from True North Sports & Entertainment, as well as a trip for two to Los Angeles, airfare included, and a pair of rounds at Pebble Beach golf course from the Manitoba Moose players.


More than 22,500 tickets have been sold for Whale Bowl, the highlight of the Whalers Hockey Fest 2011 at Rentschler Field, assuring the Whale will break the AHL attendance record. A record 21,508 watched the host Syracuse Crunch beat the Binghamton Senators 2-1 at the New York State Fairgrounds on Feb. 20, 2010.

“It’s a great tribute to the people of the state of Connecticut, but we have to get 38,000 because we want to sell the place out,” said Howard Baldwin Jr., president and COO of Whalers Sports and Entertainment, which runs the Whale’s business operations and is handling the 12-day event. “Everyone else, the NHL, college and AHL, has sold out, and if Connecticut wants to be back on the (hockey) map again, which I know it does, everybody needs to come out and celebrate this.”

Before Whale Bowl is played, “Trinity-Wesleyan Day” is on Tuesday as the schools’ women’s teams play at 4 p.m., their alumni teams at 6:30 p.m. and the men’s teams at 8 p.m. High school and prep school games fill most of the schedule the remainder of the week until the Whale Bowl, at which about a dozen celebrities will mix in with the Hartford Whalers legends team and Boston Bruins legends team as they face off at 4 p.m., followed by the Whale-Providence Bruins at 7 p.m. The day’s activities begin with the Army-American International College game at 1 p.m. All tickets for the event are general admission except for Feb. 19.

Hall of Fame defensemen Brian Leetch, a Cheshire native, and Brad Park headline the Bruins legends team. Other commitments are Enfield native Craig Janney, former captain Rick Middleton, Reggie Lemelin, Ken Hodge, Don Marcotte, Rick Smith, Bob Sweeney, Lyndon Byers, Cleon Daskalakis, Jay Miller, Bob Miller (no relation) and Ken “The Rat” Linseman, a member of the Whalers for a few moments as he passed through in a multi-player trade with Philadelphia and Edmonton that included Mark Howe leaving Hartford for the Flyers. Derek Sanderson and Gary Doak will coach the Bruins team.

Commitments for the Whalers team are WHA Hall of Famer Andre Lacroix, John McKenzie, whose No. 19 is retired in the XL Center rafters, Blaine Stoughton, Pat Verbeek, John Anderson, Garry Swain, Bob Crawford, Chris Kotsopoulos, Jim Dorey, Jordy Douglas, Ray Neufeld, Gordie Roberts, Darren Turcotte, Nelson Emerson, Mark Janssens, Bill Bennett, Jeff Brubaker, Fred O’Donnell, Terry Yake, Scott Daniels, Ed Hospodar, Yvon Corriveau and the Babych brothers, Dave and Wayne.  Norm Barnes and former captain Russ Anderson will be among the coaches.

Among the celebrities scheduled to play with one of the legends teams are filmmaker Bobby Farrelly, writer/director of such hit films as “Dumb and Dumber”, “There’s Something About Mary”, “Kingpin”, “Me, Myself and Irene”, “Outside Providence”, “The Heartbreak Kid”, “Stuck on You”, and “Shallow Hal”; and actor David Henrie, from “Wizards of Waverly Place” and “That’s So Raven”.

Famed former NHL referee Paul Stewart will officiate the game. Stewart, a Boston native, refereed more than 1,000 NHL games in a 13-year career. On March 15, 2003, he refereed his 1,000th game, becoming the only American-born official to accomplish the feat. He also officiated during the Canada Cup in 1987 and 1991 after an eight-year playing career with teams in the NAHL, AHL, NEHL, CHL, WHA and NHL.

Tickets ($20 to $85) for the doubleheader can be purchased at and the Bushnell box office in Hartford on Monday through Friday from noon to 5 p.m. or by calling the Whale at 860-728-3366. They also can be purchased online and printed immediately at

The official charity of the Hockey Fest is “Sam’s Race for a Place,” a fund-raising effort spearheaded by West Hartford resident Samantha Udolf that benefits the Ronald McDonald House. Since Udolf, a successful competitive skier, founded Sam’s Race for a Place in June of 2008, it has generated donations of more than $43,500.

The Ronald McDonald House is a non-profit charity operating since 1991 that helps hundreds of families and children enjoy the comforts of home while they await treatment at area medical facilities. Udolf became familiar with Ronald McDonald House and its good works while volunteering there, and she conceived Sam’s Race for a Place after learning it is independently-funded and depends on grass-roots campaigns for nearly all of its support.

For more information about Sam’s Race for a Place, visit Donations also can be made through that web address. Besides the games, the Hockey Fest will include “Whale Town” featuring exhibitors, games and the Whalers Mobile Hall of Fame.

A complete schedule of games can be found at There will be a free public skate on Feb. 22 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to thank the sponsors and fans who supported the event.


Two Whale players, goalie Chad Johnson and forward Evgeny Grachev, and former Whale defenseman Ryan McDonagh, now on recall to the Rangers, are in the 150-card Heroes and Prospects trading card set by In the Game.

The three have all played with the Rangers, though Johnson’s five-game stint was last season. They are pictured on those cards in the uniform of the Hartford Wolf Pack, who were rebranded as the Connecticut Whale on Nov. 27.

In the Game has been making its Heroes and Prospects hockey set for several years, and it’s become a must-have for many hockey fans. This year’s 150-card set includes seven Hockey Hero cards, three international prospects, 90 Canadian major junior hockey league players and 50 AHL players. Many of the players have already been drafted, while others are expected to be early picks in upcoming NHL drafts.

There are a lot of memorabilia, autograph, jersey, game-used emblem and AHL 75th Anniversary cards, including the one of AHL Hall of Famer John Paddock, who coached the Wolf Pack to their only Calder Cup title in his first of three seasons, 1999-2000.

Other notable player cards are Logan Couture and Alex Stalock (San Jose-Worcester), P.K. Subban (Montreal Canadiens-Hamilton Bulldogs), Tyler Ennis (Buffalo Sabres-Portland Pirates), John Carlson (Washington Capitals-Hershey Bears), John Moore (Columbus Blue Jackets-Springfield Falcons), Blake Geoffrion (Nashville Predators-Milwaukee Admirals), Jared Staal (Carolina Hurricanes-Charlotte Checkers) and Linus Omark (Edmonton Oilers-Oklahoma City Barons), as well as Calder Cup champion cards Alexandre Giroux, Chris Bourque, Keith Aucoin, Andrew Gordon and Mathieu Perreault; non-memorabilia insert cards such as Taylor Hall, Cam Fowler and Eric Wellwood; and 75th Anniversary cards Billy Smith, Brett Hull, Bruce Boudreau, Doug Harvey, Eddie Shore, Emile Francis, Gerry Cheevers, John Slaney, Carey Price, Jason Spezza, Larry Robinson, Les Cunningham, Martin Brodeur, Milt Schmidt, Patrick Roy, Pelle Lindbergh, Terry Sawchuk, Mitch Lamoureux, Willie Marshall and Zdeno Chara.

The card sets cost $94.99 and are available at All-Star Game jerseys and merchandise are also available.