In all of the Hartford hockey realm one thing is certain. When it comes to Hartford hockey history there are good guys and bad guys. One of those bad guys, historically, is NHL Hall of Fame inductee Brendan Shanahan. All the Hartford hockey fans I talk to and follow on social media say the same thing; Shanahan whined his way out of Hartford. He is the most talked about Whaler that is loved to be hated and he only played 76 games in Hartford as a Whaler.
I think the fans collective memory of Shanahan is wrong. I think he is getting the wrong end of a short hockey stick. A Hall of Fame player, who played for the Whalers and Rangers and that alone should make him a topic around the XL Center this season.
There is a myth that he quit on the Whalers. There is no argument to stand on when it comes to his performance as a Whaler on the ice. Shanahan scored 45 goals, 34 assists and 79 points in those 76 games as a Whaler. He scored a short handed goal the night before he was traded to Detroit. Watch it here and see if you think he was quitting?
Brendan Shanahan was a premiere sniper in the NHL at the time. It was a big deal to get him in Hartford, in his prime at 26 years old. Shanahan was acquired from St. Louis in a trade for Chris Pronger on July 27 1995. He was going to be the first real star that Hartford has had since Ron Francis was sold up the river to Pittsburgh, but thats a story for a different time. Shanahan could have asked for his number upon coming to Hartford. He wore number 19 in St. Louis and number 19 in Hartford was up in the rafters of the Civic Center. He asked for number 94, I asked him if he remembered why but he did not respond.
It is often thought by the few Hartford hockey Shanahan defenders that the star had been reading the writing on the Hartford Civic Center Atrium wall. The Whalers were approaching a move to another city. It is no secret that players don’t ever really want to deal with the emotion and the hassle of a team in flux. It wouldn’t be fun if the job you have now was going to be in Cleveland, Greensboro, Kansas City or some other fat chance market. I can not blame any player for not wanting to move, deal with leaving fans behind and trying to find new ones; especially promotions for a new season in 95 degree heat in North Carolina, but that’s me. Shanahan just went through these emotions in St. Louis.
Shanahan rescinded his captaincy and asked for a trade. Isn’t that the right thing to do if you have admitted that you wish to get a fresh start somewhere else? It may not have totally been his wish to leave Hartford at all. In February of 96′ it was said that Shanahan knew the team would trade him after the season ended.
We probably will never know if it was the Whalers or Shanny wanted out of Hartford more. I have always thought that if the team had a long term deal that Shanahan wouldn’t have minded staying. He already was off to a hot start. The franchise was literally inside ten years of winning a Stanley Cup. If Shanahan had stayed they might have won it sooner. If he had stayed, number 94 would have been in the rafters and he would have been back some night to be entered into the Connecticut Hockey Hall of Fame. I think it is time to remove him for the Hartford hockey hall of shame. It was just not a good time to be a star in Hartford hockey, and he was the last star in Hartford NHL hockey.