Before I delve into the tiresome matter at hand, let’s skip to the good part and the only thing that actually matters here: Pucky won. However you feel about the now-infamous incident that occurred at the Hartford Wolf Pack’s home opener, it has ended in victory for the faithful of Hartford. Pucky is officially a VIP in the XL Center now and forever more. Credit must be given where credit is due to Chris Lawrence and Spectra for rolling out the welcome mat and hosting this event.
That said, I will now comment (hopefully for the last time) on the matter. The original post “Last Saturday, Pucky the Whale got kicked out of a hockey game in Hartford” drew far more attention than I expected or was prepared to respond to. The have been a lot of questions and a lot of criticism, some of it from folks I respect quite a bit and some not so much.
With that, I will cut to the chase and address the falsehoods all point-by-point. And then we’re all going to shut the fuck up and enjoy the first day of UConn Hockey.
- PUCKY WASN’T KICKED OUT
With all due respect to my good friend Pete Hindle of the Examiner, the linguistic contortions required to interpret the incident in any other way are painful to read. You can say he entered without permission (stretching the truth), say he behaved offensively (an outright lie) or say he wouldn’t have been kicked out if he had done X,Y,Z or complied with regulations A,B,C…but right or wrong, he was told to leave. It happened. I do believe it was a misunderstanding, but let’s not indulge in Orwellian language and call the truth of matter anything but what it was.
2. I HEARD PUCKY WAS DOING <insert awful thing here>
He wasn’t. Pucky was doing three things: Waving, autographing, and posing for photos. These are the only things Pucky ever does or ever will do.
3. CALLING THIS A WAR IS DIVISIVE
I guess that depends on who you see the “war” as being against. Attacking the game day staff? The players? Spectra? The fans, Whalers fans or otherwise, who support the Pack? Those things would be divisive. The “war” that I’m fighting isn’t against any of those people. It’s against 1) The out-of-state corporation which is being publicly subsidized by our state to piss all over our local hockey heritage and 2) The tiny-but-vocal minority of trolls who claim to speak for all Wolf Pack fans and work full-time spreading misinformation amongst everyone on both sides of this issue.
If you’ve had anything more than a passing interest in Hartford hockey in the past five years, you know exactly who I’m talking about. The people whose identity is so wrapped up in being the biggest fish in a small pond that they spend every day whispering in ears and sowing seeds of mistrust. These are the people who can’t stand the thought of Pucky at a Wolf Pack game and will say or do anything to pit Spectra staff against fans who feel otherwise. These are the people who spread the rumor that Pucky was harassing people, who claimed that Pucky was gathering signatures to get rid of the Wolf Pack on the concourse. These are people who spend hours online every day replying to every single post and comment on the internet that mentions the Whalers or Connecticut Whale.
These are people who consciously work every day to destroy everything we work for. These people are the reason that I’m engaged in a public back-and-forth with a man I consider a friend and ally, and the reason that a whole bunch of people who should be on the same side think that they’re enemies. Are we at war with these trolls? Damn right we are, and I’m not going to apologize for saying it.
4. PUCKY WAS JUST THERE TO CAUSE TROUBLE AND THEY PLANNED THIS ALL ALONG
Let me state this as clearly as possible: there was no grand master plan that I am aware of. Yes, I knew that Pucky would be at opening night. There was absolutely an element, as I wrote in my original piece, of good-natured ribbing targeted at the tiny minority of Whaler Haters. But the mission itself was a benevolent and simple one: enter the atrium of the XL, essentially a public space, and let Pucky do what he does among the people and see how it goes.
I was as surprised as anyone both that there was so little animosity towards Pucky, given the inflated sense of importance that trolls give themselves in online forums, and that Pucky ended up inside the XL Center. This was never discussed with me or anyone else that I know. It just happened on a whim in the moment. Pucky and his handler were surprised at how they were embraced, decided to give going inside a shot, bought a ticket and went through security. They didn’t read up on the policy or call ahead because they didn’t go there with that intention. Maybe they should have double-checked with brass, but it was a reasonable assumption that if the box office sells a guy in a costume a ticket and security lets him through, that they’re okay with a guy in a costume entering.
That said, it is understandable that Spectra may have had a lapse in procedure at the gate, or have overreacted later and asked Pucky to leave, given the chaos of opening night. I said from the beginning that a simple apology to fans or an invitation for Pucky to return would suffice to assure Whaler Nation that this was a misunderstanding, and the fact that the XL Center is hosting Pucky’s blood drive in January is a great start there.
5. THE BALDWINS DID THIS BECAUSE <insert evil motive>
The Baldwins are a touchy subject in Hartford. The Connecticut Whale ended in a manner no one was happy with and left some bridges burnt. On the other hand, they have a very long history of going to the mat for Hartford while standing to gain very little personally, and doing so at times when no one else would. But the suggestion that Howard Baldwin Sr, a man who has been in this business since the Philadelphia Flyers were a brand-new team, is so foolish as to think having a fan in a whale costume charge onto the concourse of the XL Center is a viable tactic to force two entities as large and as powerful as Madison Square Garden and the State of Connecticut to void a multi-million dollar contract is pretty silly.
Suggesting that my writing about it is part of some grand plan is equally silly. I didn’t even have a blog until the following Monday when I made it and wrote the original post. I am a nobody, a blue-collar hockey fan who happens to have a way with words.
Most offensive to me is the idea that the Baldwins would employ anything resembling a “scorched earth” policy in Hartford. Have they made mistakes? Sure. But suggesting that they have or ever would deliberately destroy our market out of spite is a bridge too far.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some day drinking to catch up on. LET’S GO UCONN: