- The Other Overtime Goal.
- Overshadowed by the infamous "Claude
Lemieux goal" that ended the Whalers' playoff run in 1986 (seventh
game, Montréal, deadlocked after three periods, you know the story)
is another overtime goal in Montréal that sent the Whalers packing
for the spring. Russ Courtnall scored at 5 minutes, 26 seconds of the second
overtime to lift the Canadiens to a 3-2 victory over the Whalers in the
decisive seventh game of the 1992 Adams Division semifinal playoff series.
The ghosts in Montréal Forum had the last laugh on the Whalers,
but that night they were laughing at goaltender Frank Pietrangelo. My favorite
Whaler was the best player in that series, carrying the Whalers to Game
7 almost single-handedly.
- Some swear they saw the puck slip
beneath the ice and resurface in back of Pietrangelo. And then it was over.
- It was the last playoff game for the
Whalers. The effects of a strike by the NHL Players Association and the
string of disastrous trades were felt at the gate: the Whalers drew an
average of 8,354 in three playoff games against the Canadiens, including
one game where only 5,602 showed.
- They never seem to want to let us
forget it, either.
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See what other people say about losing their
team at this Minnesota
North Stars site
See what other fans are saying about goalies
- Why the Whalers...and Who the
Heck is Frank Pietrangelo?
- People, especially those who know anything at all about hockey, keep
asking me: "Why the Whalers? And what on earth does Frank Pietrangelo
have to do with it?"
- Okay, the Whalers did not exactly have a long history as a great team.
Sports writers flogged them mercilessly. They didn't get to the playoffs
in their last five years in Hartford, in a league where everyone
goes to the playoffs. They played in a mall. Their financial situation
was shaky and every day brought a new rumor about where the team would
move, next year, in two years, before Shavuot: Nashville. Houston. St.
Paul. Columbus, Ohio, to play in an abandoned airplane hangar, for God's
sake. Worrying about the Whalers became a full-time job. And finally it
happened: Baby Whale was snatched from its crib and spirited away to the
very last place anyone could have guessed: Raleigh, North Carolina.
- And Frank Pietrangelo? His best days were probably
spent as Tom Barrasso's backup in Pittsburgh, when they won the Stanley
Cup in 1991. But Frank and the Whalers are inextricably linked for me;
without Frank, there would be no Whalers. (I am torn as to whether or not
I should be grateful.)
- I was a late convert to the Whaler faithful; four years, maybe five,
but in that time the team came to mean so much to me. It wasn't an easy
few years: a lot of disappointment, a lot of unhappy days, and finally
a lot of heartbreak. Someone once said they'd met Mario Lemieux, who, when
introduced to a real live Whalers fan, smiled and said "Strong soul."
That turned out to be an understatement.
- That said, I don't believe there's anything that could compare with
the thrill of seeing the team play well, winning a game, shutting down
a hated rival. Had the Whalers won the Stanley Cup, I don't believe I could
have be any happier than I was when they beat the Bruins. Maybe it's just
that the good times were so few and far between that they tasted all the
sweeter; maybe our expectations were just so damn low we feasted on every
crumb. But are, say, Red Wings fans any happier when their team wins? I
don't think so.
- I bought these signed Frank cards for a buck. Clearly
the seller had no idea what priceless objects he had.
- I'm not a great hockey statistician or historian; I didn't follow this
team for very long. I didn't live through those dark years of bad trades
and bad management. I wasn't here when the roof fell in at the Civic Center,
figuratively and literally. I'm a Whaler parvenu, really. To me, Ron Francis
is a Penguin and Rick Ley is a coach the Canucks fired. I came to this
team when they were pretty miserable, and I watched them get a little better
every year -- not fast enough for some, and not fast enough to save themselves.
- I was a hockey fan when I was young -- the North Stars,
Lou Nanne, Bill Goldsworthy, Gump Worsley; and the Rangers, Walt Tkachuk,
Brad Park.... (I was just an idiot child and cannot be held responsible
for my taste.) My severe hatred then was reserved for the thuggish Bruins,
and of them my most bitter disgust was directed toward Derek Sanderson.
I still remember the opening from one of the chapters in Brad Park's autobiography:
"Boston Garden is a zoo." When he was traded to the vile Bruins
I thought the world had ended; but in my juvenile way, my greatest concern
was how he would make friends in Boston when he had said so many terrible
things about them.
- I lost interest after that, occasionally keeping an eye on the North
Stars and the Minnesota Gophers, especially when I went to college in hockey-mad
Duluth, but since then I pretty much kept my nose to the career grindstone.
Until a few years ago, when through some series of circumstances I ended
up at a Whalers game. I don't remember much beyond this: they were playing
the Nordiques, they lost, and in goal was a guy named Frank Pietrangelo,
a name that dredged up some vague memories of my college days and games
at Mariucci Arena. There can't have been two people with a name
like that, I thought, so I did some digging and found out that, indeed,
this was the same goaltender who played for the University of Minnesota
in the 1980s. And that was all it took: that rush of familiarity, that
feeling of running into a long-lost friend, made me a Whalers fan, then,
now, forever. Don Jose is thrown the acacia flower and his fate is sealed.
Seeing Frank Pietrangelo play that night made 10 years of indifference
- Frank didn't make much of a contribution in his time with the Whalers;
hell, he didn't make much of a splash in the NHL, although he did play
on the Penguins' 1991 Stanley Cup team and still ranks as one of the Gophers'
top career goaltenders. (And he got his picture on a Wheaties box, with
the rest of the Penguins' Stanley Cup team.) He was traded to the Whalers
in 1992, where he played for two years before being picked up by the Islanders,
who promptly loaned him to the Minnesota (now Manitoba) Moose of the IHL.
But favorite players are not always about goals-against averages, or plus-minus,
or raising money for charities. Sometimes it comes down to stupid, intangible
things; for me, it's things like Mike Peluso bawling when his Devils were
about to win the Stanley Cup in 1995, or Kevin Dineen, because you can
see the sheer joy he gets out of playing, or Frank Pietrangelo, just for
being in goal that night.
- So Frank, if you're out there, I've set aside this corner of cyberspace
to say "thank you." Thanks for giving me back hockey, even if
it had to be the ever-confounding Whalers. They are a tremendous part of
my life now, and I owe it all to you.