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What do Burger King and the NHL have in common…or at least, what did they once have in common?
This might be one of the strangest “Impossible Questions” we’ve ever done—or least the one that’s the biggest stretch. But when compiling articles for our latest Bathroom Reader a couple weeks ago, one of our writers noticed “Hartford Whalers” on a piece about defunct sports teams…and also noticed “Whaler” on a list of failed fast food items. “Whaler” isn’t a very common word outside of 19th century industrial circles, or 19th century English novels, so we thought it was interesting enough to take a look behind two unrelated, forgotten things, both named Whaler.
Similar to how the American Basketball Association tried to compete with the NBA for the attention of sports fans, the World Hockey Association was a 1970s attempt to unseat the NHL as the predominant professional hockey league. Twelve teams, mostly from cities with big hockey fanbases but no NHL team, began play in 1972, including the Winnipeg Jets, Quebec Nordiques, and New England Whalers. After playing two years in Boston (including a WHA championship in 1973), the team moved a short 100 miles to Hartford, Connecticut. When the WHA folded in 1979, the Whalers were absorbed by the NHL and changed its named to the Hartford Whalers. In the NHL, the Whalers were a perpetual cellar-dweller, rarely making the playoffs and making it to the conference finals just once. In 1997, the Whalers moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, and became the Carolina Hurricanes.
McDonald’s unveiled the Filet-O-Fish, first fast food fried fish sandwich in 1962 in order to please Cincinnati’s large Catholic population, who abstained from eating meat on Fridays. Burger King responded with the Whaler a few years later, introducing it in cities with big Catholic populations before making it a chain-wide offering by 1975. (The Whaler consisted of a fried fish patty on a bun with tartar sauce and lettuce.) Perhaps of an unappetizing name that makes customers think of whales, the Whaler was never widely popular, leading Burger King to reformulate and rename its fish sandwich every few years. Other names include the Ocean Catch, Big Fish, and Premium Alaskan Fish Sandwich.
Need more impossible questions? Check out Uncle John’s Impossible Questions.