i'm pretty sure the reason why you see so many ex-whalers fans at the coliseum is due to the proximity and the fact that anyone who was once a fan of the whalers still hates the rangers and bruins. i have heard of these whalers fan gatherings and they are always held at the coliseum.
as someone who grew up 10 minutes from the civic center, i did not know a single kid i grew up with who was an islanders fan or anyone else for that matter. i knew a few rangers fans but everyone was a whalers fan for the most part. my family and i moved to southern california in 1998 and since the whalers were all but dead to me, i became a ducks fan and haven't looked back since. true whalers fans definitely did not become hurricanes fans