(The AHL has undergone a season of change and one third of the league has changed locations or logos for the 2015-16 season. Leading up to the new season, The Hockey News will be ranking the logos of the league’s teams and offering a brief look at the history of each franchise. See the rest of the rankings in our AHL feed.) In the past two seasons the Hartford Wolf Pack have gone from being on the outside looking in to legitimate post-season threat. In 2013-14, the club finished nine points out of a playoff spot and just five games over .500, but came back with a vengeance in 2014-15, finishing 19 games above .500 and winning their division. With the Northeast locked up, the Wolf Pack downed the Providence Bruins in the post-season’s opening round and disposed of the Hershey Bears in six games in round two. The Eastern Conference final was a different story, though, as the near-unbeatable Manchester Monarchs booted the Wolf Pack from the playoffs with a 4-0 series sweep. Of their top 10 scorers, only
Marek Hrivik and
Ryan Bourque are still with the team. Leading scorer
Chris Bourque headed to the Capitals organization,
Danny Kristo is off to Blues, Carl Klingberg left for the KHL,
Chris Mueller is now a Duck,
Conor Allen is with the Predators,
Ryan Haggerty was dealt to the Blackhawks and
Justin Vaive signed with the rival Islanders. That doesn’t bode well for the Wolf Pack’s offense in 2015-16. To replace the lost production, the Wolf Pack have added scoring by committee.
Brian Gibbons and
Jayson Megna have all been brought in to contribute up front. The lack of offensive defensemen will put pressure on sophomore
Mat Bodie, who scored five goals and 32 points in 75 games for the Wolf Pack in his rookie year, to step up from the blueline and spark some scoring from the backend. Luckily, the Wolf Pack should be set in goal with
Magnus Hellberg and
Cedrick Desjardins. Hartford has missed the post-season in three of the past six campaigns and unless there’s a breakout star, it could be another long summer for the Wolf Pack.
Team History: Hartford has the longest history of any team in the league and no franchise’s lineage dates back further than the Wolf Packs. The club began in 1926 as the Providence Reds and joined the AHL in 1936 when a merger took place between the Canadian-American League and the International Hockey League. For 40 seasons, the club played in the AHL under the Providence moniker until 1976-77, when the club changed to the more encompassing Rhode Island Reds. The time as Rhode Island would be short lived, however, as the club folded at the end of the 1977 season. Shortly after folding, the team was purchased and moved to Binghamton, N.Y., where they became the Binghamton Dusters and would remain for 20 seasons. Three years after moving to Binghamton, the club affiliated with the Hartford Whalers and adopted the NHL team’s name. The affiliation with Hartford ended after a decade when, in 1990, the club’s affiliation changed to the New York Rangers. The Binghamton Whalers became the Binghamton Rangers and stayed such until 1997. When the Whalers relocated to Carolina and vacated the Hartford Civic Center, the Rangers moved the affiliate there. It was in Hartford the club would adopt the Wolf Pack nickname, chosen by way of a naming contest. The affiliation with New York has lasted more than a quarter-century. The franchise’s all-time goals, assists and points leader Zellio Toppazzini, who played with the Reds for 12 seasons from 1951-64 and scored more than 270 goals and 720 points. The modern-day record holders are Brad Smyth (184 goals, 365 points) and Derek Armstrong (204 assists). The Wolf Pack won a Calder Cup in 1999-00.
Logo History: Like the franchise, the logo history for the Wolf Pack goes way back. However, there’s very little connection made between the former Providence and Binghamton clubs and the current team in Hartford. The Reds got their name — and their logo — from the Rhode Island state bird, the Rhode Island Red, which is a breed of chicken. Over the years, the look went from a tough-guy chicken to an ‘R’-based logo and ended with a modernized attacking bird. Once the team was purchased and moved to Binghamton, though, the Reds name was entirely dropped.
In Binghamton, the team went through three logos. First was the Binghamton Dusters, which got its name from the former NAHL Broome Dusters. It was Broome’s ownership group that bought the Reds, so the new club in Binghamton adopted the Broome name. When the NHL affiliation with the Whalers, and later the Rangers, came to pass, the club’s logo mimicked that of its big league affiliate.
In 2010, the Rangers partnered with former Whalers owner Howard Baldwin, who decided to change to the Whale name to honor the former NHL club. All told, the partnership lasted two years and the name was switched back to Wolf Pack. The new Whale logo was nowhere near as heralded as the original Whalers mark.
Current Logo: The Wolf Pack name has more meaning than one would think. It’s not simply a catchy moniker, it has some serious roots in the surrounding area and in military history. Connecticut is home to one of the U.S. Navy’s main submarine bases and the name Wolf Pack is an homage to a submarine class and the “wolf pack” tactic. The name was selected through a naming contest and has stuck with the team — outside of the brief Whale re-naming — since the club’s debut in 1997. The Wolf Pack score extra points for the hidden meaning, but where they struggled in our estimation was the muted color scheme. The reds, blues and silvers don’t pop as well as those of the affiliate Rangers. If they were brighter, the logo would stand out more. If Hartford went with a primary logo that carried the same meaning but was more in-your-face — think Chicago Wolves-esque — we might have been more inclined to place Hartford higher.
(All logos courtesy of Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.net)