Residents in Connecticut have a big decision to make today; who to vote for as our governor. There’s the challenger, millionaire Tom Foley who has a mansion, 2 yachts, and supposedly does not pay income taxes. Then there’s the incumbent Dan Malloy, who despite saying he would not raise taxes, did.
I don’t follow politics as close as I probably should, but this also isn’t a political column. The reason I bring up today’s election is what Malloy said this past weekend as a guest on WFSB 3’s Face the State with Dennis House. Malloy was asked about the possibility of an NHL coming back to Hartford, and you can watch what he said HERE.
Malloy says there are several groups interested in bringing a team to Hartford, but they would first have to purchase a franchise and relocate that team, which would be the most realistic way for it to happen. The NHL is looking to expand with teams out west, with Seattle and Las Vegas being the front-runners. Seattle would be a great fit because it is a great sports town. Hockey in Las Vegas to me is a joke but the NHL wants to do something no other of the major sports leagues has done, and that’s have a team in Vegas. Other possible cities for NHL expansion include Quebec and Toronto.
So what teams could be purchased and moved to Hartford? Photos showing dismal attendance at certain games having been making the rounds on the internet. The worst has to be the Florida panthers, who had the lowest ever attendance for a home opener when their season kicked off a month ago. A few nights later, only 7,311 fans saw the Panthers play the Ottawa Senators. The BB&T Center, the Panthers’ home arena, holds 20,000-plus; you do the math.
— Hartford Whalers (@WhalerWatch) October 14, 2014
Even the former Whalers, the Carolina Hurricanes are having trouble getting fans to games. The Hurricanes hosted the defending Stanley Cup champion L.A. Kings, but there looked to be plenty of seats open in Raleigh. What doesn’t help is that the Hurricanes have won just 2 games this season so far.
The Phoenix Coyotes have been a frontrunner for relocation for a number of years now. Not even having The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, in the team’s front office, and at one point behind the bench, has been able to help the fledging franchise. Things are so bad, the team decided to rebrand itself as the Arizona Coyotes to spark some interest.
It’s tough to judge attendance right now as the season is still very young and the NFL is in the middle of its season. Let’s see what happens after the Super Bowl.
But why should Hartford get another chance at having an NHL team? Things didn’t work out the first time around, so why would it work now? The NHL apparently loves second chances. They gave Winnipeg another team, despite the first Jets team leaving for Phoenix. The Colorado Avalanche is Denver’s second NHL franchise after the Colorado Rockies left to become the New Jersey Devils. Atlanta has had 2 teams, the Atlanta Flames and the Thrashers, and both of those teams moved.
Hockey has been in Hartford for decades. Hartford needs hockey. The only definite mainstay hockey program to call the XL Center will be UConn’s men’s team, who just kicked off their first season in Hockey East, the NCAA’s best hockey conference. The AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack isn’t even a guarantee to stay in Hartford much longer if the Bridgeport Soundtigers move to Long Island.
The only other thing is an arena. The XL Center is 40 years old and just went under massive renovations. Despite the renovations, the XL Center is no longer an NHL arena. A new arena would need to be built, which is part of Malloy’s plan. Malloy also want a new arena, should it be built, in the city of Hartford. But it remains to be seen who would be paying for the construction of a new XL Center.
I’m sure there’s a lot more to this than Governor Malloy is telling us. I’m not telling anyone who to vote for, but if you want to see the Whalers back in Hartford, I think you know what you need to do…
Sources – WFSB.com, SBNation.com, Wikipedia, onlyagame.wbur.org
Photos – Twitter (@EmptySeatPics, @WhalerWatch), Facebook.com/pages/Hartford-Whalers-Fans
Video – Facebook.com/DennisHouseWFSB