"Whaler Stories Week" submitted by Anonymous.
It was Opening Night 1995 and hopes were pretty high for the Whalers going into that season. During the off-season the Whalers had traded young Chris Pronger in exchange for Brendan Shanahan. Shanny was the first legit superstar the Whalers had had since trading Ron Francis away half a decade earlier.
I was in my Sophomore year of high school and as luck would have it, one of my friends family couldn't use their four lower level season tickets to the game. I was lucky enough to be one of the three to get an invite. We of course locked in a friend with a driver's license and then a bottle of Goldschlager, and the four of us 15 and 16 year olds were ready for a night of Whalers hockey.
The Civic Center was raucous that night. Hartford had its new superstar, hopes were high, and the hated Rangers were in town only one season removed from winning the Stanley Cup. Being a 15 year old that had sipped Goldschlager liberally before the game, I don't really remember too many of the details except that the Whalers won 2-0 and the crowd was exceptional.
(Ed. Note: Confirmed that this game was played on October 7, 1995 and the Whalers did win 2-0.The Whalers won their first 4 games that season, tied the fifth game and then lost the next five on their way to yet another losing season.)
Now I'm not sure if this was the first year that smoking was banned inside the Civic Center or if this was the first season that the outdoor smoking area was in the location overlooking Ann Street, but given what transpired I have to believe it was one of the two.
The first period ended and of course being soaked in Goldschalger, the best way to follow it up was with a couple Marlboro Reds to get the cinnamon taste out of our mouths. This was probably the first time for each of us to be at a game unsupervised so to say we were enjoying drinking and smoking without any worry of parental interruption would be a bit of an understatement.
During the intermission some enterprising gentleman down on Ann Street decided to take advantage of his captive nicotine addict audience and started playing his saxophone down on the street. A couple of the hockey fans tried their hands at throwing change into the open saxophone case by the musicians feet a good fifteen to twenty feet below the smokers deck. A couple of the others patrons decided this was a fun game and soon a few dozen coins were being hurled down onto Ann Street with a couple bouncing off cars.
The real fun started after the second period when all of us smoking degenerates reconvened on the smokers deck. With the seed planted from the first intermission and another period of booze fueling brain function, it seemed that the smokers had gathered every piece of change in the Civic Center and was ready to have some real fun.
Sure enough the saxophone player had returned, but the pretense of trying to throw the change in the musician's case did not return with him. What followed was a barrage of coins onto Ann Street, aimed at cars parked on the street; the nicer vehicles receiving the brunt of the barrage. The scene on the smoking deck reached near mayhem as coins were joined by spit and the occasional bottle and can was hurled down below.
For four young teenagers attending our first game unsupervised; drinking, smoking and seeing adults act in such a manner served as a source of joyous entertainment. We could scarcely believe what we were seeing. Eventually the police came up to the smoking deck yelling and shouting to disperse the crowd, an event that only increased the excitement for us.
That was the end of the smoking deck for the night as the Whalers won and the rowdy, but joyous crowd poured out onto the street. Whalers fans were hooting and hollering and meting out some abuse to the numerous Ranger fans leaving the game. One of the group I was with hopped onto the bumper of a car stopped at a light with two dressed in Rangers jerseys and slapped their hood while chanting "Let's Go Whalers!"
We spent the the remainder of the night in one of the groups finished basement playing NHL 95 on Genesis, drinking out of his parents liquor cabinet and dancing to the blacklight and lava lamps in his bedroom. It's the last time I remember ever seeing the city so excited about the Whalers. The next time I was at a game a tall metal wall (that remains there today) had been installed on the smoking deck so smokers couldn't even see down onto Ann Street. It's a great memory even 15 years later.
Sounds like a great time. Wish I could have been there.