Tag Archives: John Paddock


BY: Bruce Berlet

Kale Kerbashian joined the New York Rangers organization literally over a cup of coffee and a vanilla milkshake.

The smallish (5-foot-11, 165 pounds) but quick forward was interviewing with Rangers scout Rich Brown at a Starbucks in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, when he got an offer to play for one of the NHL’s Original Six teams.

“He had watched me all season, and I guess he liked what he saw so they gave me a chance,” Kerbashian recalled. “I loved coming down (to Hartford) and staying in the Homewood Suites. It was great.”

Kerbashian got a three-week taste of pro hockey in April after he signed AHL and amateur tryout contracts after completing his junior career with Sarnia of the Ontario Hockey League. He had 63 goals and 81 assists in 126 games in two seasons in Sarnia and chipped in two goals and one assist in four games with the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers in 2010. Continue reading


bruce mug shot 1Classy move by the NHL at the start of the fitness testing portion of its scouting combine Friday with a tribute to former Central Scouting Service E.J. McGuire, the first coach of the Hartford Wolf Pack.

McGuire died in April from a rare form of cancer. Jim Gregory, a former general manager and senior NHL hockey operations member, opened with moving remarks about his close friend. Gregory’s comments were followed by a video homage to McGuire and his work in the hockey community.

McGuire was a longtime assistant coach with the Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks (under coach Mike Keenan) and also coached the Wolf Pack and Maine Mariners in the AHL and the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm.

As Mariners coach in the 1991-92 season, McGuire oversaw Bruins players and prospects, including current broadcasters and analysts Andy Brickley, Bob Beers and Barry Pederson. He coached the Wolf Pack in 1997-98 and 1998-99 before John Paddock took over and led the team to its only Calder Cup title.

I didn’t cover the Wolf Pack while E.J. was coach, but he was always quite personable and informative when we chatted when he returned to the then Hartford Civic Center. He was a terrific guy and is sorely missed.


By: Bruce Berlet

Former Hartford Wolf Pack coach Ryan McGill is looking for a job.

McGill wasn’t retained by the Calgary Flames, making him the third member of the coaching staff to be let go after the team missed the playoffs for a second consecutive season. Goalie coach Jamie McLennan and assistant Rob Cookson also didn’t have the option years of their contracts picked up. Dave Lowry is the only assistant to be retained under coach Brent Sutter.

FROM THE CREASE with Bruce Berlet

bruce mug shot 1By Bruce Berlet

CROMWELL, CT – The Connecticut Whale bus wouldn’t get into gear after a practice in suburban Syracuse during the team’s only venture into Canada this season to Toronto and Hamilton last week.

But Johnny Davis, a bus driver for 25 years and the team’s chauffeur since the birth of the Hartford Wolf Pack in 1997, solved the problem in 90 minutes after calling his boss at Dattco.

Continue reading


(Due to having a crippling case of the flu, we were unable to watch yesterday’s game between the Connecticut Whale and the Adirondack Phantoms. However, our good friend Bruce Berlet was there and files this report)

Xmas-CT-Whale_thumb2_thumb VERSUS       Adirondack

By Bruce Berlet

HARTFORD, Conn. – For the first six weeks of their 14th season, the Hartford Wolf Pack/Connecticut Whale managed to figure out every way imaginable to lose 10 one-goal games on the way to the franchise’s worst start in history.

But since a 1-9-2-1 swoon dropped the Wolf Pack/Whale into the Atlantic Division cellar, they have managed to find a multitude of ways to win in one of the best stretches in history that has moved them into the fourth and final playoff spot. Continue reading


Connecticut Whale VERSUS  Worcester

In the 13 years as the Hartford Wolf Pack, each team presented a different challenge to the coach…even in the good years. The name has changed now from the Hartford Wolf Pack to the Connecticut Whale, and for Ken Gernander’s team, the problems they had in the past are resurfacing again in the present. Finding consistency and goals. Continue reading


Connecticut Whale VERSUS  Adirondack

HARTFORD, Conn. – So all they needed to do was change the uniforms, the name and start pumping “Brass Bonanza” into the arena and now suddenly they’re an undefeated juggernaut? Well, not quite.

After flat and chemistry-less play for the first two periods, Head Coach Ken Gernander took the advice of his assistant, J.J. Daigneault and, “Mixed it up a bit,” shifting around his left wingers. The movement awoke a lifeless Connecticut Whale, who put out a solid 20 minute effort in the third period and that was enough to defeat the Adirondack Phantoms 3-0 before a crowd of 3,012 at the XL Center Sunday afternoon.

Continue reading


Bruce HeadshotBy Bruce Berlet

HARTFORD, Conn. _ Ken Gernander has been the face of the Hartford Wolf Pack for more than 13 years.

He has been pro hockey’s torchbearer in the Connecticut capital since the Whalers left for North Carolina in 1997.

Gernander was Wolf Pack captain for eight seasons and then retired and became the only player to have his number (12) raised to the XL Center rafters alongside luminaries such as Hall of Famers Gordie Howe and Ron Francis, Kevin Dineen, Ulf Samuelsson and Rick Ley.

Then Gernander was an assistant coach for two seasons under general manager/coach Jim Schoenfeld and became the bench boss for the 2007-08 campaign.

Friday night, Gernander appropriately will be the head coach for the 1,177th and final Wolf Pack game at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport against the Sound Tigers. The Wolf Pack have a 571-346-66-49-29 regular season record and were 57-58 in 22 playoff series, winning their only Calder Cup title in 2000.

On Saturday night, Gernander will help usher in the Connecticut Whale era when the Sound Tigers visit the XL Center.

“I’m more focused and concerned with getting a win than anything from the nostalgia standpoint,” said Gernander, who missed only 43 games in the Wolf Pack’s lifetime. “I hope becoming the Connecticut Whale generates some enthusiasm and support for these players, and it’s all towards creating a better hockey atmosphere in Hartford. That’s what we want, and if we attain our goal and it becomes a thriving hockey region, that’s great.

“These are good, talented kids who are working hard, and we want to see some excitement and enthusiasm from a hockey perspective. From a Hartford perspective, let’s get the XL Center buzzing and the downtown active and vibrant and make some strides. You look at what the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins or Hershey Bears do for their downtowns and their regions around the arena, and there’s no reason it can’t happen in Hartford.

“One of the lessons for our guys is that if you aspire to be a Ranger or aspire to be a NHLer, the best thing that you can do is to give everything that you’ve got right here. And if Hartford sees something in New York or Boston, let’s make something of Hartford. Let’s not naysay or worry about what goes on on either side of our border. Let’s make something special here. … I’m just worried about our guys and our team, and I’d like to see the best product that we can have from an entertainment perspective, from a hockey-playing perspective, from a community relations and support perspective. I think it should all go hand-in-hand, and it should be some sort of synergy.”

Gernander likely will have some flashbacks during the game Friday night and especially when the final horn sounds. But being the pragmatist and straight shooter that he is, Gernander knows he has to go back to work Saturday as coach of the Connecticut Whale in a continued attempt to try to revitalize the hockey market and possibly bring an NHL team back to Hartford.

“I’ve known this has been coming for awhile, so it’s not a shock,” Gernander said. “Regardless of what happens Friday night, we’re still the Rangers’ top affiliate and I’m still with the Rangers. But I don’t have any negatives with my time with the Wolf Pack, so I’m not going to put a negative (on becoming the Whale) either.

“Everything that transpired as far as me and the Wolf Pack and the New York Rangers has been first class. I couldn’t ask for more.”

Improving the local hockey market with an eye toward the NHL is the long-range goal of Whalers Sports and Entertainment chairman and CEO Howard Baldwin, the former owner and managing general partner of the New England and Hartford Whalers. Baldwin & Co. has been chasing that dream since January and hoped to have the Whale ready to go at the start of the season. But extended negotiations with Northland, AEG and the Rangers prevented WSAE from taking over the team’s business operations until 21/2 weeks before the Wolf Pack started their 14th season Oct. 8.

In a bit of irony, John Paddock, the man who coached the Wolf Pack to the only professional title in Hartford’s 35-year hockey history with Gernander as his captain in 2000, will be behind the Adirondack Phantoms’ bench Sunday at 5 p.m. for the second game in Whale history. Paddock, inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in February, started the season as assistant general manager of the parent Philadelphia Flyers before taking over as Phantoms’ coach when Greg Gilbert was fired Nov. 8 when the team was 2-10-0-1.

Having already gone head-to-head with his former coach, Gernander didn’t want to put a lot of stock into their latest matchup. But he gushed about the influence of Paddock, the third winningest coach in AHL history who is 1-5-0-1 with the Phantoms.

“He gave me a few tips along the way,” Gernander said, “and I appreciate that he was a man of few words and that when he spoke it was obviously for a purpose.”

Gernander said his style has varied depending on his team.

“Sometimes you feel the situation requires a little more teaching, so there’s obviously more talking and involvement,” he said. “But I liked Pads’ approach. It was no-nonsense, pretty simple and obviously very straightforward. I really appreciated how he operated. He didn’t sugarcoat anything or expound with a lot of words.

“What he had on his mind he said and he meant, and you were to carry it out. I think he had a great deal of respect from the players. He had a good understanding of what they were doing, what they were going through, and he was demanding, which is great. Everybody is here to be the best that he can be, so if you’ve got someone who is going to raise the bar of expectations, that’s great.”

There have been continued high expectations for the AHL’s winningest team since the Wolf Pack replaced the Whalers as Hartford’s pro hockey team. After the worst start in franchise history (4-10-2-2), winning two of three road games with a 10th one-goal loss tossed in last weekend has Gernander feeling better about the prospects of not missing the playoffs for the second consecutive year after going 12-for-12.

The Wolf Pack/Whale played arguably their most complete game of the season in a 5-2 victory over Springfield last Friday night as newcomer Chad Kolarik had two goals and an assist against his former team. Then after beating Binghamton 3-2 on Jeremy Williams’ goal 1:03 into overtime Saturday night, a poor second period helped Hershey score four goals and then hold on for a 4-3 win Sunday.

“Obviously the first two games were real encouraging, and I think things are swinging in the right direction,” Gernander said. “We’re playing a little better as far as our structure goes, and in the two wins some of our bigger guys came through. Our power play has been very good, but we don’t want to rely on it, so we’ve still got work to do five-on-five.

“In the Hershey game it was a bit disappointing that we made some critical mistakes, and it wasn’t like they were plays that were beyond us. They were simple plays that we didn’t execute for whatever reason. To use a baseball analogy, we needed a couple of singles instead of a home run. And we had some undisciplined penalties.”

The Wolf Pack/Whale was helped by the return of right wing Dale Weise, who scored in the last two games after missing 15 games since Oct. 15 because of an ailing hand that required surgery. Weise replaced Brodie Dupont, who needed 16 stitches to close a gash above his left knee after being cut by the skate of a Manchester Monarchs player in a 4-3 loss in the start of the road trip Nov. 17. He hopes to return in the next week.

“(Weise’s) goals weren’t finesse, they were just going to the net and a tip,” Gernander said. “After having played three games and a good week of practice, he’ll be honed in and ready to go and maybe convert a few more chances.”

The only other hockey person with the Wolf Pack since Day One is play-by-play announcer Bob Crawford, who has missed only three games while doubling as the director of public relations the last few years.

“I’ve been around Kenny so long that I almost don’t know if I fully appreciate him like I should,” Crawford said. “He’s just the consummate professional. I had a chance to watch him go about his business as a player, an assistant coach and a coach, and in all those roles, he has always been so dedicated to doing things the right way. Leading by example is kind of a cliché in sports, but I think he’s really one guy who models the right kind of way of going about things and the right kind of way of behavior rather than talks about it.”

Crawford said Gernander has always expected more out of himself than he does of anybody else, which makes Crawford want to match the player/coach’s dedication and support him in that endeavor.

“I would think that if I’m a player that he’d be a guy who would be great to play for just because you know he’s always going to give his best and always going to be pointed in the right direction,” Crawford said. “All you’d have to do is do what he tells you to do and you’re pretty well assured of success. He takes (bad times) out on himself and isn’t the kind of guy who’s going to say it’s just the wrong combination of players or that the players aren’t pulling their end. He’s going to watch more tape, worry more and think more and put his nose further to the grindstone.

“When you’re a player, you only have to worry about getting one guy ready to play. When you’re a coach, you’ve got to worry about 20 guys, and that’s a heck of a responsibility if you’ve got a few guys who just aren’t ready to go or thinks of everything that you’re trying to do.”

Gernander was the franchise captain his last 10 years and is the Wolf Pack’s all-time leader in shorthanded goals (14), plus-minus (plus-93), games played (599) and playoff games played (78). He also ranks second all-time in goals (160), assists (187), points (347), power-play goals (50) and game-winning goals (30). But he was rarely called up by the Rangers, playing in only 27 NHL games, 15 in the playoffs, and finishing with two goals and three assists.

After retiring as a player after the 2004-05 season, Gernander was an assistant coach under Schoenfeld and is now in his fourth season as head coach. He retired as the AHL’s all-time leader in career playoff games played (123) and is the second all-time leading scorer among American-born players (624 points in 973 games). He twice won the AHL’s Fred T. Hunt Award for sportsmanship, determination and dedication to hockey and has the most coaching victories in franchise history (138), having passed Paddock’s 130 at the end of last season.

“Kenny was the type of player who was totally committed,” Schoenfeld said. “He was committed to his job, to his teammates, to the positive outcome of the season. And that makeup in the man hasn’t changed in the coach. Players are not easily fooled. They can see through the guy that is not legitimate. They know that Kenny’s the real guy.”

Gernander lives in New Britain with his wife, Kerby, and their three children – McKenna, 11, Micah, 9, and Miranda, 5. McKenna and Micah play hockey, and Miranda might soon be following them.

The three M’s couldn’t have a better role model than their dad.


1. The Calder Cup experience in winning the AHL championship in 1999-2000: “It’s the only championship I’ve had since peewee hockey. Just to be able to say you were a champion, that you were better than anyone else, is really special. There’s so much that goes with it. You have to have some lucky breaks, but where everybody has to be on the same page and part of an environment where there isn’t a weak link or a chink. To have everybody be that committed and to have everybody pull together like that becomes so special. It’s not just like a NCAA tournament where there’s one big game or one big upset. The Providence series (in the Eastern Conference finals) was like a lifetime. But that’s what so special about hockey playoffs. Every playoff holds a certain mystique where you can have huge upsets and Cinderella stories, but the essence of hockey is the grind. You can upset somebody in Game 1, and then you have to beat them three more times.”

2. Terry Virtue scores at 7:32 of overtime for a 4-3 victory in Game 7 of the 2000 Eastern Conference finals on May 21 in the Civic Center, the puck ricocheting off the skate of former Wolf Pack forward Peter Ferraro and past John Grahame to put the team in the Calder Cup finals for the first time and set off the biggest home celebration in franchise history: “That pretty much capped off a pretty big comeback on our part. I don’t think too many people had us penciled in to win that series after we got down 3-1. It sounds a little ludicrous, but the Rochester series (in the Calder Cup finals) was almost anti-climactic. It really didn’t have the same feeling and sensation of that Game 7: coming back, overtime, at home.”

3. A 3-2 victory in Game 5 of the conference finals against Providence: “We were down 3-1 in the series and trailed 2-0 with less than a minute to go in the second period when Derek (Armstrong) scored when he deflected in Drew Bannister’s shot after I won a faceoff. Then we tied it on my goal on a redirect from Jason Dawe at 6:47 of the third period and won on Dawe’s goal at 9:15. That, to me, was kind of the essence of everything.”

4. Raising the championship banner before the 2000-01 home opener on Oct. 7: “When you start a season, your goal is to win a championship, and I think some of those significant moments along the way supersede just a regular-season game or a milestone that’s just a date on the calendar as opposed to something that led to something special in terms of a championship. When they raised some (retired) numbers and I got to meet Gordie Howe was pretty special, but they’re not on the same level as key, pivotal moments in the process of winning a championship.”

5. Raising the Wolf Pack banner before the home opener with 12,943 people at the Civic Center for a 2-2 tie with the Portland Pirates on Oct. 4, 1997, less than six months after the Hartford Whalers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in their final game on April 13 and then headed to North Carolina to become the Carolina Hurricanes: “We were the same franchise as a Rangers affiliate, but we had a new Wolf Pack logo in a new environment in a new city (from Binghamton, N.Y.). It was the novelty of it all, how we were received and all the new optimism and excitement about being in a new market. It was pretty nice building in a pretty nice market, so there were all kinds of positives in being part of a new franchise.”

FROM THE CREASE with Bruce Berlet

Bruce HeadshotBy Bruce Berlet

Before thanking Howard Baldwin for bringing the Whale back to Hartford and proclaiming this “Connecticut Whale Week” in the state, Gov. M. Jodi Rell had a special request: “Where’s Pucky?”


Who’s Pucky?

Oh, he’s the mascot of the new Connecticut Whale, who debut on the ice Saturday night at 7pm at the XL Center against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

When Pucky appeared through a doorway in the front of Rell’s office, the governor broke into a wide smile.

“I’ve entertained a lot of folks in this office over the years – dignitaries, Olympians, contestants for different shows – but I’ve never had a whale in here before,” Rell said during a 20-minute ceremony in her Capitol office Tuesday afternoon. “But the Whale is back, and as some would say, we could end that statement with a hallelujah. The fan base and loyalty to the (AHL’s Hartford) Wolf Pack has been terrific and meant a lot, but to think of all the people who have believed through the years, led by Howard, it’s wonderful to have the Whale back.

“It’s good news for the state, it’s good news for Hartford, but I think the best news is for the fans, who have been there all along. I certainly appreciate that and their efforts. I think they’ll be there in full force and be a part of making this very special.”

Because it was “such a momentous occasion,” the outgoing governor read what she believed would be one of her last proclamations declaring Nov. 21-27 as “Connecticut Whale Week.” It will culminate with the Wolf Pack officially being re-branded Saturday night with the start of the “Catch the Wave” campaign to try to revitalize the sport in the region and hopefully bring the NHL back to Hartford.

Baldwin, the former owner and managing general partner of the New England and Hartford Whalers who is now chairman and CEO of Whalers Sports and Entertainment, thanked Rell for her continued support of hockey and the Wolf Pack, who began when she was lieutenant governor and spearheaded an effort to keep the Whalers in Hartford before they left for North Carolina in 1997.

“This is a big day and another step,” Baldwin said. “I appreciate all that the governor has done for hockey in the state. We feel there is great leadership here, and we hope we can provide leadership to bring hockey back and make this the premier market that it once was.”

Baldwin presented Rell with a replica of the team’s new blue-and-green jersey with RELL on the back. It was later borrowed from her so the Whale could add Rell’s favorite number, 24. Baldwin also presented Rell with several bags of groceries, which were among the first donations to the Governor’s Care and Share Program for FoodShare in which food is collected for the less fortunate for the holidays.

Then the talk returned to the re-branding of the Wolf Pack, who will play their 1,177th and final game Friday night at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport against the Sound Tigers. The Wolf Pack have a 571-346-66-49-29 regular-season record and were 57-58 in 22 playoff series, winning their only Calder Cup title in 2000.

Saturday night will usher in the Connecticut Whale era, then, in a touch of irony, John Paddock, the man who coached the Wolf Pack to the only professional title in Hartford’s 35-year hockey history with Wolf Pack/Whale coach Ken Gernander as his captain, will be behind the Adirondack Phantoms’ bench Sunday at 5 p.m. for the second game in Whale history.

The Whale actually will make their first public appearance Friday night when the Festival of Light opens at Constitution Plaza in Hartford. Starting at 5 p.m., Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, cast members of the Hartford Stage Company’s “A Christmas Carol,” and Sonar, the Wolf Pack’s mascot, will lead a procession to Bushnell Park, passing through State House Square on the way to visitors seeing a giant Christmas tree and sipping free hot chocolate.

During the march, they will be joined by Pucky and Santa, who will be riding a Zamboni ice-grooming machine. The public is invited to walk with the group or cheer them along the route, which includes Asylum and Trumbull streets.

Saturday night, former Whalers players Garry Swain, Norm Barnes, Yvon Corriveau, Gerry McDonald and captain Russ Anderson will be signing autographs in the XL Center atrium from 5:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. and then participate in pregame ceremonies that include dropping the ceremonial first puck. Tony Harrington, who sang the national anthem for years before Whalers games, will do the honors Saturday night after the Whale players are introduced in their new uniforms.

There also will be a new game program entitled BlueLines, and celebrities, scouts and members of the media will give their perspectives on the team during the pregame show on the Jumbotron, replacing “Coaches Corner” with Gernander and assistants J.J. Daigneault and Pat Boller. The coaches will continue to give their thoughts on the pregame radio show with announcer Bob Crawford and occasionally participate in the Jumbotron discussions.

The night is presented by Xfinity, and the first 3,000 fans will receive a green Whale T-shirt. As part of the Whale segment of the season, ticket packages are available from $638 ($242 savings) for blue seats to $290 ($110 savings) for kids (any seat except blue) and yellow seats. The offer includes 29 regular-season games, one voucher for Whalers Hockey Fest 2011 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford on Feb. 11-23 and 20 vouchers for games at the XL Center. For more information, call 860-728-3366 or visit www.ctwhale.com.

Individual game tickets are also on sale at the XL Center ticket office and all Ticketmaster locations. Tickets also can be charged by phone at 1-800-745-3000 or online at www.ctwhale.com. Tickets start at $7 at the XL Center ticket office on game day. For information on Whale ticket packages, group sales or VIP packages, call 860-728-3366.

Baldwin said he would like to see the first Whale game sell out, but he set a target to beat of 10,507, which was the capacity of the original Hartford Civic Center before the roof collapsed on Jan. 18, 1978. Anything approximating that would be a vast improvement over the Wolf Pack’s average crowd of 3,466, which ranks 25th in the 30-team AHL.

“I’m feeling very optimistic that you’re going to see a nice five-figure crowd,” Baldwin said. “We certainly should do 10,595 and more on Saturday night.”

Baldwin said fans “will feel like they’re stepping back in time and hear some music that is familiar,” referring to the return of the Whalers’ legendary theme song, “Brass Bonanza.”

“What we want to focus on is the presentation of the product,” Baldwin said. “It’s our team, and we want the people to focus on winning and losing. When the team isn’t doing well, go ahead and get mad at us. And if it’s doing well, I hope the fans will be happy.

“No excuses, but we’re getting into this late. A lot of things that we want to get done will get done over the next five-six months as opposed to this quickly. But I don’t think you’ll be displeased. You’ll be happy.”

The Wolf Pack/Whale (6-11-2-2) has struggled most of their 14th season because of a lack of scoring and too many bad penalties. They won the first two games of a season-high, five-game road trip Friday night in Springfield and Saturday night in Binghamton before losing their 10th one-goal game Sunday in Hershey. They have won two of the first three games in this year’s 10-game GEICO Connecticut Cup series, including a split in Bridgeport, as they won 2-1 on Oct. 6 and lost 4-1 on Nov. 7.

The Sound Tigers (8-11-0-0) have a new coach, Pat Bingham, since their last meeting with the Wolf Pack/Whale. Bingham replaced Jack Capuano on Nov. 15, when Capuano was promoted to coach of the New York Islanders after Scott Gordon was let go and became an assistant to general manager Garth Snow.

The Sound Tigers improved to 2-2-0-0 under Bingham with a 3-0 victory over Atlantic Division-leading Portland on Sunday as rookie goalie Kevin Poulin made 29 saves for his first pro shutout. Poulin also had 28 saves in the Sound Tigers’ only victory over the Wolf Pack/Whale this season, 4-1 in Bridgeport on Nov. 6. He is 5-2-0 with a 2.28 goals-against average and .928 save percentage.

Baldwin said tickets have picked up for the Whalers Hockey Fest 2011 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford on Feb. 11-23, when 30 youth, high school, prep school, college and alumni games will be played, along with an AHL game between the Whale and Providence Bruins and a celebrity game between cast members of the Baldwin-produced “Mystery, Alaska” movie and players from the 1986 NHL All-Star Game that the Whalers hosted at the Civic Center.

“We’re really zoning in hard on the schedule and will be getting that out in more detail real soon,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin said the difficulty for his group is they started in January thinking they were going to take over the business operations of the Wolf Pack, but that hit a snag because of the disruption between AEG and Northland. So Whalers Sports and Entertainment fervently put together a Whalers Fan Fest in August that drew 5,000 fans to Rentschler Field and the Whalers Hockey Fest.

“It was (wife) Karen and I sitting around wondering what we were going to do to show we weren’t going away,” Baldwin said. “The Winter Fest became an entity unto itself and then all of a sudden, we got the team, so we’re balancing two rather large entities.

“We wondered for a while if we’d get the team, but once we got into July, I knew we would, but it was a question of how quickly. We easily could have said we weren’t going to do it, that we were going to walk away from it, but if we did that than there would be no hockey here, and we want hockey here. So we just had to make the sacrifice, which was done. Now we need to see improvements (in attendance). There are still going to be days where it’s slow, but I think you’ll see attendance jump now.”

Kennedy and Goalies Don’t Mix

Wolf Pack center Tim Kennedy can’t seem to stay away from brush-ups with goalies.

Kennedy got into his third tussle with a netminder Saturday night after being called for boarding Binghamton defenseman Derek Smith behind the Senators net. As Kennedy skated away, he was pursued by goalie Barry Brust, who pulled a Ron Hextall and smacked Kennedy in the face with his hard blocker/glove, knocking him to the ice. Brust got a minor penalty for roughing, while Kennedy received a double minor for boarding and roughing, though it’s hard to understand how he got the second penalty when Brust did all the roughing.

“I was trying to draw a penalty because we had one,” Kennedy said Tuesday after practice at Champions Skating Center in Cromwell. “I didn’t expect him to hit me at all. He thought (the hit) was dirty, but it was a clean hit. He (Smith) knew I was going to hit him, so in order to not get hit, he turned at the last second because he didn’t want to take a hit. I can’t let up because I’m already going for the hit, and if I try to pull up on a dime, I’m going to hurt myself.

“(Brust) was screaming at me about the hit and then told me to shut the (bleep) up. I turned my head for a second, and he hit me. He didn’t hit me that hard, but I was just trying to draw a penalty because I didn’t want us to be down (a man). It didn’t work because we ended up being shorthanded, but it was a case where the goalie did more than he should. He should just worry about stopping the puck because we scored on the next shift. But things like this happen. There are no rules down here (the AHL). I guess you can do whatever you want.”

As expected, Senators coach Kurt Kleinendorst supported his goalie’s retribution.

“It’s a shame that (Brust) had to, that he was the one who had to realize something needed to be done,” Kleinendorst told Yahoo’s Puck Daddy blog. “But it doesn’t surprise me. I think he would have chased the guy down to the far blue line if he had to, but that’s a good thing.”

Brust had 40 saves, but Kennedy and the Wolf Pack/Whale got the last laugh when Jeremy Williams’ power-play goal at 1:03 of overtime gave the visitors a 3-2 victory. That came after Chad Kolarik had two goals and one assist against his former team in a 5-2 victory over the Springfield Falcons on Friday night and before the Hershey Bears scored four second-period goals and then held on for a 4-3 win over the Wolf Pack/Whale on Sunday.

Rangers Trade Nigel Williams to Anaheim for Stu Bickel

The Rangers traded disgruntled Wolf Pack defenseman Nigel Williams to the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday for defenseman Stu Bickel.

Williams, 22, wasn’t interested in returning to the Wolf Pack this season but had to report or he would have been suspended. He asked to be traded and was finally obliged after being a healthy scratch the last seven games. Williams, acquired from Colorado for defenseman Brian Fahey on July 16, 2009, had one assist and two penalty minutes in 12 games and played wing at times in his last few appearances.

Bickel, 24, had three assists and 14 penalty minutes in six games with the Syracuse Crunch this season and played one game with the Elmira Jackals of the ECHL. Signed as a free agent by Anaheim on July 2, 2008, Bickel has two goals, six assists and 103 penalty minutes in 63 AHL game. A native of Chanhassen, Minn., Bickel played one season at the University of Minnesota, where he had one goal and five assists in 45 games, before turning pro. … Left wing Brodie Dupont skated with his teammates for the first time since he sustained a 16-stitch cut when the blade of a Manchester Monarchs’ player opened a gash above his left knee late in a 4-3 loss to the Monarchs last Wednesday.

“It’s feeling better, but we’re still waiting for the swelling to go down,” Dupont said. “We just want to make sure it’s pain-tolerable because turning causes some pain. Everything is questionable right now.”

Dupont was expected to be sidelined 7-to-10 days and hoped to play this weekend, but that’s up in the air.

Familiar Faces Abound

A lot of familiar faces faced off Sunday night in Hershey. Wolf Pack/Whale defenseman Wade Redden and Bears defenseman Lawrence Nycholat, who played for the Wolf Pack in parts of three seasons (2002-05), were teammates with the Ottawa Senators in 2006-08. Bears left wing Boyd Kane played most of his first four pro seasons with the Wolf Pack (1998-2002), and defenseman Brian Fahey played in Hartford in 2008-09. … Texas Stars goaltender Richard Bachman was named AHL Player of the Week after stopping 87 of 90 shots in three victories, capped by a 26-save performance in a 2-0 win over Milwaukee on Sunday. The Wolf Pack/Whale nominated right wing Jeremy Williams, who had three goals and two assists in four games, while other nominees included Brust, Nycholat, former Wolf Pack goalie Al Montoya (San Antonio), former New Canaan High and Taft School-Watertown standout wing Max Pacioretty (Hamilton) and goalie Kevin Poulin (Bridgeport). … The Greenville Road Warriors loaned goalie Dov Grumet-Morris, who appeared in two games with the Wolf Pack/Whale earlier this season, to the Portland Pirates. Grumet-Morris, 28, was 3-2-0 with a 3.00 goals-against average and .906 save percentage in five games with the Road Warriors, who are affiliated with the Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers. He was 0-1-1 with a 1.32 GAA and .935 save percentage with the Wolf Pack. Now he has been reunited with the Pirates. In the 2006-07 season, he was 1-6-3 with a 3.03 GAA and .903 save percentage in 11 games with the Pirates and backstopped them to a playoff victory over the Wolf Pack. … Mired in a 0-for-22 slump on the power play, the Rochester Americans pulled off one of the quickest comebacks in AHL history when they scored three goals in 52 seconds with the man advantage in the last 7:20 for a 5-4 victory over the Syracuse Crunch on Sunday night. The Amerks, who had lost four in a row at home and seven of eight this season, took advantage of three Crunch penalties in 46 seconds to get two goals from Evgeny Dadonov and one from Mike Kostka. Chris Taylor assisted on all three goals after scoring the Amerks’ second goal and was nominated for player of the week.

(Photo courtesy of Paul Doyle via CTNow.com)

FROM THE CREASE with Bruce Berlet

Bruce HeadshotBy Bruce Berlet

John Paddock, who guided the Wolf Pack to their only Calder Cup in 2000, got an unexpected request Monday night to become the new interim coach of the Adirondack Phantoms, the top affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Paddock, the Flyers assistant general manager who was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame on Jan. 19, wasn’t prepared to replace the fired Greg Gilbert, who lasted only 13 games as the Phantoms got off to the AHL’s worst start (2-10-1-0). The Phantoms have lost nine in a row since a 3-2 victory over Syracuse on Oct. 15.

But taking over for Gilbert, who was 32-41-3-4 last season after going 123-89-10-18 in the previous three seasons as Marlies coach, was the best option for the Flyers.

“The change isn’t something we expected, but it wasn’t a surprise as the losses mounted,” Paddock said Tuesday morning before leaving Philadelphia for Adirondack. “It made me refocus my thinking. I had to get back to a different mode and mindset. It’s not the plan to be there at the end of the season, but it’s hard to find someone in the middle of the season.”

Flyers GM and former Whalers GM Paul Holmgren made the change, saying in a press release “the lack of success for the team of late is not acceptable. I believe this move became necessary under the circumstances.”

Paddock, 56, a former coach and general manager of the Winnipeg Jets and Phoenix Coyotes, coached the Phantoms to a 43-30-2-5 record in the 2008-09 season, the last they were based in Philadelphia. The Phantoms qualified for the playoffs but lost to the Hershey Bears in the first round in four games. He was promoted to Flyers assistant GM the following season.

“We’ve got 10 or 11 rookies, but we think (the Phantoms) are not as bad as they’ve been,” Paddock said. “We don’t have a star, but we’ve got some solid veterans like (former Wolf Pack captain) Greg Moore, Dan Jancevski, David Laliberte and Patrick Maroon, so we should be better than we are.”

Paddock has won five Calder Cups – two as player (Maine Mariners, 1978 and 1979) and three as a coach (Maine, 1984; Hershey Bears, 1988; Wolf Pack, 2000). He’s the only coach to lead three teams to the league title and had a 130-74-25-11 record in three seasons coaching the Wolf Pack.

Paddock has a career record of 585-424-98 over 15 seasons as a head coach in the AHL, with the 585 wins and 1,107 games coached both ranking third in league history. He also had a 142-161-43 record in 346 NHL games with the Jets (1991-92 to 1994-95) and Ottawa Senators (2007-08).

Paddock’s assistant could be former New Haven Nighthawks player and Beast of New Haven assistant coach Joe Paterson.

“That’s a possibility, but it hasn’t been finalized,” Paddock said.

The Phantoms play their first game under Paddock on Thursday night at 7 at home against the Toronto Marlies. Paddock’s first trip back to Hartford will be Nov. 28, when the rebranded Wolf Pack plays its second game as the Connecticut Whale at 5 p.m.

Paddock’s return was scheduled to be for the Wolf Pack’s final home game Saturday night, when the All-Wolf Pack Team will be announced. But that changed when he had to go back behind the bench. Instead of being in Hartford, Paddock will be coaching the Phantoms at home against Abbottsford. He’ll be at the XL Center 15 days later.

“That’s the end of a bad trip for us,” Paddock said, referring to four games in five nights, capped by road games at Hershey and Hartford.

Rangers’ Heritage Week Starts Friday

This season is the New York Rangers’ 85th anniversary season, and in honor of that milestone, the team is unveiling Heritage Week, a weeklong schedule of activities and programming from Friday through Nov. 17 that will provide fans with many opportunities to help celebrate the team’s history.

The celebration begins Friday, when the Rangers unveil a new third jersey that the team will wear during select regular-season games. The jersey is a contemporized throwback that will pay homage to Rangers’ rich history and iconic alumni. A special version of the jersey featuring unique embellishments will be available only at Madison Square Garden.

Also on Friday, there will two grand launch events at the Rink at Rockefeller Center and the NHL Powered by Reebok store on Sixth Avenue. Both events will feature top current Rangers players and alumni, including Hockey Hall of Famer and Cheshire native Brian Leetch, former Whalers enforcer Nick Fotiu, Eddie Giacomin, Adam Graves, Ron Duguay, Vic Hadfield, Brian Mullen, Gilles Villemure and Pete Stemkowski.

The event at Rockefeller Center will feature the unveiling of the third jersey at 7 p.m., followed by a free public skate for fans from 8 p.m. to midnight. At the same time, the NHL Store will offer Rangers fans the opportunity to be the first to don the new jersey from 6 to 10 p.m. The lucky customer who makes the first purchase of the anniversary jersey will win a package that includes tickets to the home game against the Boston Bruins on Nov. 17, when the Rangers will skate in their heritage jerseys for the first time. Rangers past and present will visit the NHL Store throughout the night, stepping into the radio booth for interviews for Sirius/XM’s NHL Live! show. Fans will have the opportunity to submit questions for the radio interviews and win raffle prizes and giveaways.

On Saturday, Rangers partner community rinks will host free public skating sessions to celebrate the anniversary. The sessions will feature appearances by Rangers alumni, raffles and fan giveaways at Floyd Hall Arena, 1:15-3:15 p.m. with Duguay; Danbury Arena, 1:30-2:30 p.m. with Hadfield; Brewster Arena, 3:30-4:30 p.m. with Hadfield; World Ice Arena, noon-1:30 p.m. with Giacomin; Staten Island Skating Pavilion, 2:30-4:30 p.m. with Fotiu; and Stergiopoulos Rink, 2:30-4:30 p.m. with Giacomin.

Throughout the week, Rangers fans will be treated to a special Hockey Hall of Fame exhibit located at the mall area in front of MSG. Featured items will include Conn Smyth, Norris, Calder and Vezina Trophies, game-used equipment from Rangers greats, as well as a one-of-a-kind display area highlighting the evolution of the Rangers jersey ranging from the original 1926 jersey to the 85th anniversary heritage jersey.

The weeklong celebration will end Feb. 17 with a special Heritage Night when the Rangers play the Bruins wearing the jersey for the first time.All-Wolf Pack Team To Be Announced Saturday

The All-Time Wolf Pack Team, selected by a vote of the fans, will be announced Saturday night before a game against the Springfield Falcons, the last for the Wolf Pack at the XL Center. The first 3,000 fans will receive a free Wolf Pack commemorative poster, and there will be video highlights of the 13-plus years of the team, which will be re-branded as the Connecticut Whale on Nov. 27 against the Sound Tigers.

Fans voted for one goalie, two defensemen and three forwards. The candidates were goaltenders Jason LaBarbera, J.F. Labbe and Steve Valiquette, defensemen Dan Girardi, Mike Mottau, Thomas Pock, Corey Potter, Dale Purinton and Terry Virtue and forwards Ken Gernander, Dane Byers, Derek Armstrong, Nigel Dawes, Alex Giroux, Todd Hall, Greg Moore, P.A. Parenteau, Richard Scott, Brad Smyth, P.J. Stock and Craig Weller.

Wolf Pack Bowl-a-Thon on Sunday

The Wolf Pack will host their annual Bowl-a-Thon on Sunday at the AMF Silver Lanes, 748 Silver Lane, East Hartford. There will be sessions at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

All Wolf Pack players will be bowling with teams of four bowlers, who have collected pledges to benefit Special Olympics Connecticut Eastern Region. A minimum pledge of $200 is required for a team to enter, and the top fund-raising teams will win prizes, including the use of luxury suites at Wolf Pack home games.

Register online at www.soct.org. For more information, call 877-660-6667.