The Hartford Yard Goats' home opener on April 13 coincides with a day that some of the city's biggest sports fans will never forget.
"I don’t know if they set up the 13th or if it was the league who did it," said Joanne Cortesa, President of the Hartford Whalers Booster Club. "It’s just a matter of, 'Wow, you took the 13th, the day the Whalers left.' I don’t have a ticket for it and I don’t want to go."
Cortesa doesn't care about the first home game for Hartford's newest team, because she's still thinking about the last home game of another one -- the Whalers. It's been 20 years to the day that they played their last game in the city, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning at what was then known as the Hartford Civic Center.
It was the final game in franchise history. You can guess where Cortesa was on that night.
"In the coliseum, crying," said Cortesa. "I had a black armband on."
The pain still hasn’t gone away. The Hartford Whalers Booster Club gets together for a monthly meeting and they have a "FANniversary" every April 13 in memory of the Whalers. That’s where Cortesa will be when the Yard Goats take the field at Dunkin’ Donuts Park. Because, while she's always wanted a pro team to come back to Hartford, she was hoping for hockey -- not baseball.
Like Cortesa, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said he’d love to see an NHL franchise move back to Hartford someday. But for now, he's ready for baseball.
"I don’t know that anything will replace the Whalers, but I hope to someday get an NHL team back here that will come as close as we can to replacing the Whalers," Bronin said. "In the meantime, it's nice to have those colors that are the same as the Whalers colors. That has a little emotional resonance."
They may not have Cortesa’s initial support, but that nostalgic Whaler feeling could go a long way for the Yard Goats, who will be wearing blue and green all year. They'll also welcome back former Whalers for an alumni weekend in July. Those are games that even Cortesa will be going to.