|City||Auburn Hills, Michigan|
|League||Ontario Hockey League|
|Colors||Navy blue, white, green and silver|
|Head coach||Peter DeBoer|
|1990-92||Detroit Compuware Ambassadors|
|1992-95||Detroit Junior Red Wings|
The creation of the Detroit Whalers resulted after a failed takeover bid by Peter Karmanos to buy the National Hockey League's Detroit Red Wings from Mike Ilitch. The Junior Red Wings severed all ties with the NHL Red Wings when the relationship soured after the 1994-95 season ended.
When the Detroit Junior Red Wings were evicted from Joe Louis Arena in 1995, the franchise changed names and home arenas again. Karmanos renamed his franchise the Detroit Whalers, in association through common ownership with the NHL's Hartford Whalers team which Karmanos bought, instead of the Detroit Red Wings.
The Whalers found temporary home ice at its training base, the Oak Park Ice Arena, along with The Palace of Auburn Hills. The next year, the team had a permanent facility in Plymouth Township, Michigan. The team played for two seasons before renaming themselves again to the Plymouth Whalers.
Shortly after the Jr. Red Wings were finished playing in the Memorial Cup, general manager & head coach Paul Maurice was promoted to the Hartford Whalers. He would be replaced by the assistant coach Peter DeBoer, as new general manager & head coach. DeBoer would remain with the Whalers organization until 2001.
The Whalers attendance suffered in their first season after losing much of its fan base in downtown Detroit. The loss of the "Junior Red Wings" name also lowered the team's profile. Peter DeBoer set about rebuilding a new image and fan base for the franchise.
DeBoer's task for his team on the ice was to prepare to play on two completely opposite home ice surfaces. The tiny Oak Park Arena favored a hard checking team while the spacious Palace (25 miles away) was an NHL size ice surface. In spite of the difference between Oak Park and the Palace, the Whalers had the OHL's best home-ice record in 1995-96 (25-6-2), and won their second consecutive Western Division title and the Bumbacco Trophy.
The 1996 playoffs started with a cross-border matchup of Detroit vs. Windsor that fans had wanted since 1990. Detroit finished 38 points ahead of Windsor during the regular season, but the series took seven games to decide. Detroit won the first three games of the series, but Windsor won the next three games. Detroit clinched the series with a 9-2 victory in game seven. The Whalers moved on to defeat the Kitchener 4 games to 1 in the second round. The Whalers were eliminated in the semi-finals, losing to the Peterborough Petes in five games.
On March 1, 1996, Whalers owner Peter Karmanos finalized plans to build a 4,000 seat arena in Plymouth Township for his team. The arena was to be ready for the 1996-97 season.
The Whalers had arrived in Plymouth in 1996-97, and began to build a new fan base, and rebuild the team on the ice. DeBoer and newly appointed assistant coach Steve Spott chose a team full of rookies, and a handful of veterans. The Whalers revamped their roster with a hard-working scouting staff. First round pick Harold Druken scored 27 goals with 31 assists in his first season.
The Whalers made the playoffs despite finish with a losing record of 26-34-6. Detroit met their old foe, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the playoffs. After losing the first three games, the Whalers came from three goals behind in the fourth game to prolong the series, winning 4-3 in double overtime. The game was the longest in the franchise's history (90 minutes, 2 seconds). The Greyhounds won the next game 8-3, but the Whalers' rookies gained valuable experience for the next season.
During the 1995-96 season, the Detroit Whalers played 21 regular season home games at The Palace of Auburn Hills, and the remaining 12 regular season home games and playoff home games at the Oak Park Ice Arena.
Karmanos arranged to build the Whalers a new home in Plymouth Township as soon as the 1995-96 season ended. The new arena was constructed in 6 months, in time for the 1996-97 season. The Detroit Whalers played all games of their second season at the Compuware Sports Arena.
More information on arenas from The OHL Arena & Travel Guide.