I sat down this week feeling I needed to say something about a recent incident in which Nick Tarnasky of the Hartford Wolf Pack publicly berated a man with developmental disabilities at the Tilted Kilt in Wethersfield, got asked to leave by the bartender, who responded by refusing to tip her, and then later came back not to apologize but to complain about the bartender costing them his business. It’s pretty gross. The team, per usual, responding by pretending nothing happened. It ignored the bartender’s complaint, as well as the complaints of the several hundred people who shared her original post about the incident. They deleted comments and hoped it would blow over. Which is also gross.
That said, I’m not sure what I can add to the conversation. I’m not a journalist. I confirmed the story and the fact that the Wolf Pack refused to respond to it, got ignored by the Wolf Pack as well, and ended up with little to add. Sadly, it isn’t particularly surprising. You can’t control the stupid things that a 30 year-old minor leaguer does right after clearing waivers, staring down the tunnel at the end of his career. But you sure can do something about a culture where his awful behavior gets ignored and the people of Hartford get brushed off, yet again, as a bunch of whiners and complainers who should feel lucky to have a team at all. So instead I responded in song.
I’m not much of a musician either, but I think it makes my point better than some internet faux-journalism about minor league hockey gossip, and fills the gaping void in American folk music for Hartford-centric Christmas songs. It sounds kind of like Hank Williams Sr if he were a Whalers fan, less talented, and alive in 2015:
It’s a cold christmas in Hartford
and the plaza don’t shine no more
the sixty-six runs late
and the suburbanites hate
having to come here at all
I remember Christmas in Hartford
thousands crammed into G Fox
now we swim through a sea
of steam and loathing
then we get back on that bus
I don’t wanna be
Boston or NYC
my christmas tree is still whaler green
and my city ain’t noone’s rest stop
And the brass bonanza still echoes
off the tower where the mall used to be
the boys all left town
but we still pack the house
and wait for the whale to come home
You say you’re too good for this town
but you ain’t no Gordie Howe
we’ve been down and out since the team went south
so make my blue Christmas green
Oh, it’s a cold again in Hartford
so make my blue Christmas green
yeah make my blue Christmas green
My songwriting abilities being meager as they are, I thought I’d take this opportunity to list a few other songs about the Hartford Whalers. Yes, there is more than one. Yes, they’re all either angry or sad.
- THE ZAMBONIS – “Bob Marley and the Hartford Whalers”
The gold standard by which all hockey-themed bands and songs will be judged. Nothing else needs to be said about the Zambonis.
- JOEY BATTS & THEM – “860”
“Find identity, New York or Boston? Stuck in the middle and the team we lost ’em. Giants or Patriots? Red Sox or Yankees? Who cares, bring the Whale back, thank me.”
- LIQUOR BARON – “Bleed Green or Bleed Red” and “Tea Bag the Rags!”
Connecticut-based hardcore band Liquor Baron coined the genre term “hockeyviolence” and is probably the only documented interpretation of the Brass Bonanza as a sleazy guitar solo. “We drink until we’re fucking mindless, get high on hockey violence. We raise the flag of Whaler nation in the name of Ronnie Francis!”
- THE HARTFORD YARD GOATS – “Hype Song”
A strange and wonderful amalgam of “Brass Bonanza” and Andrew W.K. by Matt Deis of CKY.
- THE HEXTALLS – “J.S. Giguere is a Robot”
Ok, technically this one isn’t about the Whalers and it isn’t very kind either, but as J.S. Giguere got his NHL start as a Whaler in their last season and was the final active NHL player to have played in Hartford when he retired last year, I figured this was worth an honorable mention.
If I missed any other songs, let me know. If you’re mad that I mentioned the Nick Tarnasky thing you’re terrible and I don’t care what you think, but I’m sure you’ll let me know anyways.
EDIT: We forgot this lost gem from 1996, produced by long-time Whalers announcer Chuck Kaiton under the unfortunate moniker “Kaiton’s Krazy Krew”:
Not sure I whether to laugh or cry. I worked in Hartford before it breathed its last breath. They were golden memories.
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I honestly believe things are getting better, but it’s hard not to miss those days.