‘Hockey Fest’ draws thousands to Rentschler

By Frances Taylor - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Mon., Feb. 21, 2011
Pucky the Whale and Sonar of the Connecticut Whale joined the teams on the ice during the alumni hockey game. Photos by Frances Taylor.
Pucky the Whale and Sonar of the Connecticut Whale joined the teams on the ice during the alumni hockey game. Photos by Frances Taylor.

Connecticut Whale fans recently endured frigid winter temperatures to cheer their team and the stars of a one-of-a-kind “Legends” game that pitted alumni from the Hartford Whalers against alumni from the Boston Bruins. The outdoor hockey “Whale Bowl” games were played Saturday, Feb. 19, on a specially-constructed rink within the Rentschler Field stadium. 

The “Legends” game was just one in an exciting lineup of games and other events that drew thousands to East Hartford. The Harvest-Properties.com Whalers Hockey Fest 2011 was billed as “the greatest hockey event in Connecticut history,’’ and featured 10 days worth of games and attractions, from Feb. 10 to 23.

Hockey Fest 2011 featured an American Hockey League game – the Connecticut Whale vs. the Providence Bruins - premier college games, high school, junior and prep school games, and a “Whale Town,” which included exhibitors and the Whalers Mobile Hall of Fame.

Fans began flocking to the stadium in the early afternoon on Feb. 19 for tailgate parties and to stock up on Connecticut Whale memorabilia before the Whalers and the Bruins alumni took the ice at 4 p.m.

“Legends” players included Whalers alumni Wayne Babych, Dave Babych, Yvon Corriveau and Ed Hodspodar, and Bruins alumni Craig Janney, Brian Leetch and Brad Park.

Brian and Katelyn O’Keefe, of Enfield, are long-time Whalers fans who have become followers of the new Connecticut Whale. “I don’t know if this is biggest hockey event in Connecticut history, but it’s definitely big,” Brian said. “I still miss the Whalers.”

The Zambonis, a Bridgeport rock group that plays music dedicated to hockey, entertained the pre-game crowd in the parking lot. “All the music is related to hockey, and we play at events like this… We’re big Whalers fans also,” said Ann Tater, who was handling publicity for the group.

Despite temperatures that dipped below freezing that evening, more than 20,000 people filled the stands. The “Legends” exhibition game ended in a 4-4 tie, and then Providence beat the Whale, 5-4. It was only the second outdoor hockey in AHL history, according to event organizers. 

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