By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It’s a pretty big night for New England hockey fans on Tuesday, as the Hartford Whalers will be making their triumphant return to the region. If only for a few hours.
That’s because when the Carolina Hurricanes visit the Bruins on Tuesday evening, they’ll have replaced their normal uniforms for those of the beloved Hartford Whalers.
And in another pleasant nostalgic twist, the Bruins will be wearing their white jerseys on home ice to accommodate the green Whalers jerseys. Prior to the 2003-04 season, the NHL switched from having home teams wear their white jerseys at home to on the road. Since then, the Bruins have very rarely worn their white sweaters in Boston.
The jersey switch is part of a promotion this season, and the Canes wore Hartford duds when the two teams met back in December in Raleigh to celebrate 21 years since the franchise moved from Connecticut to North Carolina. This time, though, some fans who actually attended Whalers games at the Hartford Civic Center will be in the building to witness it.
The uniforms brought the Hurricanes good luck in that December meeting, as they rallied from a 2-0 deficit, scored four straight goals, and won 5-3.
During that game, Bruins play-by-play announcer Jack Edwards ranted during the NESN telecast that the Hurricanes should not have let Dougie Hamilton wear his usual No. 19. That’s because the Whalers retired No. 19 for Johnny “Pie” McKenzie, who also played seven seasons for the Boston Bruins and passed away last June.
“Pieface, or Pie, was one of the greatest guys you’d ever want to meet,” Edwards said “Every time you met him, you went away feeling better and usually chuckling to yourself. What a wonderful man he was. Hamilton was traded from Calgary to Carolina about two weeks after McKenzie died last June, and they gave him No. 19. And other players have worn it between the time that Hartford had moved to Carolina. But a lot of New Englanders who were hardcore John McKenzie fans, and a few New Englanders who were dear friends of the man, take great umbrage that even for a day or two, because this Carolina team will wear these sweaters in Boston later this season, would have a number that is retired, which used to be a sacred thing, worn by another player, and a much lesser one at that. It shows the disconnect between the Carolina marketing department and hockey history. I doubt we’ll ever see anyone wear No. 4 on the ice for the Boston Bruins again. [The Hurricanes] didn’t unretire Ron Francis’ number, they didn’t unretire Gordie Howe’s number, they didn’t unretire Glen Wesley’s number.”
During a practice on Monday in Carolina, Hamilton taped over the “1” in the 19 on the back of his helmet with the number 6.
Hamilton may well receive some boos from the Boston crowd on Tuesday night, but it’ll likely be more tied to some raw feelings left over from his departure from the team back in 2015.