March 29, 2014

One Less Hartford Whaler

38 year old Hnat Domenichelli retired earlier this month.

Yes, I know, you probably assumed the former NHL retired a long time ago. After all he hasn't played in the NHL since 2003, though astute observers will remember he represented Switzerland at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

Domenichelli, an undersized scoring dynamo, played 267 games in the NHL but has been in Switzerland for the past decade. In 491 Swiss league games he scored 528 points including 240 goals.

Now in the NHL Hnat may be best remembered in Calgary or Atlanta. He also played briefly in Minnesota. But he got his start with the now extinct-Hartford Whalers. The Whalers drafted Hnat out of Kamloops (WHL) in 1994 and he played just 13 games in the 1996-97 season.

The Whalers hold a certain cult-like status in the heart of many hockey fans. And RJ Pratt on the SIHR discussion list noted that Domenichelli's retirement leaves only five former Hartford Whalers still playing hockey somewhere, though one has a pretty big asterisk.

Jean Sebastien Giguere is still playing in Colorado. He is having a decent season as a back-up but he is 36 years old and on an expiring contract. His days may be numbered, too. He looks like a good bet to be the last former Whaler to play in a NHL game.

Like Domenichelli, three former Whalers remain active in Europe. Michael Nylander is playing with his son in Sweden. Robert Petrovicky is playing in Slovakia while shootout legend Marek Malik is in Austria.

The final former Whaler who is still active is Chris Pronger. Like I said, there is a pretty big asterisk there. Pronger is a certain Hall of Famer but he has not played since November 2011 thanks to a scary eye injury. His career is, for all intents and purposes, over. There is almost zero chance he will ever play again. But due to contractual concerns he can not technically retire until the expiration of his contract in 2017.

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