April 13, 1997 is a date that probably doesn’t mean much to you. Just another day that passed on the calendar without anything significant occurring. However, this was a day that would live in Connecticut infamy. After defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 2-1 the Hartford Whalers where history. These Whalers were just another casualty in a decade filled with more shuffling of NHL franchises then a card game at the casino. Hartford joined the likes of Quebec, Minnesota, and Winnipeg as cities that lost their beloved franchises to other cities. While hockey has returned to Minnesota and most recently Winnipeg, the fans of the Brass Bonanza are still awaiting for the Whalers to come home.
I guess you could say that the Whalers were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Victims of a new owner, who never intended on keeping the franchise in Hartford. A state whose Governor who was trying to lure the New England Patriots from Foxboro down to the insurance capital of America. Governor Rowland felt it was more important to try to lure a different team to the state instead of keeping the one it already had. Long story short, the Whalers were moved to Carolina, while Robert Kraft stabbed the whole state in the back when it was revealed that he just used the relocation to Connecticut as a ploy in order to gain leverage to build Gillette stadium in Foxboro. Now you know why Connecticut doesn’t have that many Patriots fans.
With the current state of the NHL with teams like Phoenix, New Jersey, Florida, and Dallas struggling to fill their arenas, the next great migration of teams moving might have just commenced. We may look back and say this movement was started by the Thrashers moving to Winnipeg. The biggest knock on Connecticut is the lack of an NHL arena. The current arena, the XL center, is old and incredibly outdated. A new downtown arena is essential for not just hockey, but for the well-being of the city. A city that desperately needs to revitalize its downtown community.
The UCONN Huskies are without a doubt the biggest draw in Connecticut. No surprise there, with multiple National Championships the Huskies are a National power that gives us Nutmegers a sense of pride. With the UCONN hockey team entering the fold in 2014 couple with the declining XL center, it’s not if but when a new arena should be built. The goal of this new arena would not be to just bring in an NHL franchise but rather give UCONN a state of the art arena for years to come. This new arena would bring in more events such as NCAA regional tournaments while bringing money to a state that is cash strapped. Not to mention it could be a major tool to recruit top talent in order for UCONN to continue their dominance on the hardwood. The success of the MTS Centre in Winnipeg proves the arena wouldn’t have to be a colossal arena. A 15,000 seat arena would be a perfect size for both collegiate and professional teams to fill the seats.
While there are many other roadblocks preventing the Whalers homecoming, such as current teams affairs and television contracts, step one is to build a new arena. Remember Field of Dreams? If you build it they will come ! Money is a big issue with financing this arena but if the state realizes the benefits of the UCONN Huskies athletic programs it makes sense. Sure the ultimate goal is to bring in an NHL team, but it’s a process. The Whalers had one of the most loyal fan bases and left not because of poor fan attendance but because of a miser owner and a governor who gambled on the NFL and lost. Connecticut needs to improve its sports infrastructure for its college basketball
teams. If they build an arena to help UCONN, then the pipe dream of NHL hockey could become a reality. Hartford was the Green Bay of the NHL in America and represented the unique passion and love that New Englanders have for the game. The NHL experiment in the Southern U.S. has had mixed to terrible results. Now maybe the best time for Gary Bettman to look north, where hockey belongs. With the success of the Whalers winter festival at Rentschler field over a year ago proved that their still is a strong fan base. While critics argue that minor league attendance has been poor in Hartford minor league hockey to the people of this great state is like beer without alcohol. Once you’ve had the real thing anything less won’t suffice. When the minor league team changed its named to the CT Whale instead of the Wolf Pack season ticket sales increased by 36%. Coincidence? I think not!!!
The Whalers have such a great history and arguably one of the greatest sports logos in history. What I’m saying is that the city of Hartford has the chance to kill two birds with one stone. Not only improve the playing arena for the UCONN Hockey and basketball teams but at least give the state a chance to get a NHL team back. The road ahead is without question going to be a long and hard one to get the NHL back. But if Hartford takes that first step by investing in UCONN, the state’s best asset who knows? Maybe the sounds of the brass bonanza will echo through downtown Hartford once again. Please fell free to comment and follow my blog. I would love to hear what suggestions you have for me and what you would like me to write about. You a Whalers fan? Would love to hear from you! Like the Whalers? click these links below Thanks !!
8 thoughts on “Bring back the Brass Bonanza!!!!! How Connecticut can get an NHL team back and why they need to”
Pingback: Gone but not forgotten, the ghosts of hockey in New Haven | Rich Sports Talk
Pingback: Looking for a home? Five cities who deserve NHL homes | Rich Sports Talk
Thank you for the article but please read your work. There are more spelling and grammatical mistakes in this piece than I think I have ever seen in a single three paragraph writeup.
I was the radio Engineer for the Hartford Whalers from 1979 to 1988, and had the unique place of watching the crowds over the years.
First, you need to take into account Connecticut sports history. Hartford has had semi pro baseball teams, semi pro football teams, a minor league basketball team, an NHL hockey team. None of them have survived. Why? Because, aside from the loyal fan base, which in the case of the Whalers were fewer than you would like to think, as soon as the team starts doing poorly for whatever reason, the fans no longer come to the games to support the team. I sat in many a half filled Hartford Civic Center Coliseum when the Whalers went through a bad streak. They had a “real” crowd only when the team was doing well. Unless that attitude changes amongst the Connecticut fans, you will never have a pro team for any length of time in the state. Look at it from the owner’s point of view. If the fans don’t support the team, what is their incentive to stay?
Next – who is going to pay for this grand stadium you are calling for? The taxpayers? Dude – I live in NY, where everything but breathing is taxed to the max. But Connecticut takes the cake in taxes, starting with continual double digit budget increases in the 1980’s through and beyond the passage of the state income tax – IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT AND MADE RETROACTIVE THREE MONTHS. That got me off my rear and out of the state because the government just – doesn’t – get – it. You can’t tell me that people in Connecticut are not hurting because of the tax situation there. If you are looking to the taxpayers to foot the bill on a new arena, you are dead wrong for doing so.
It’s going to be used for UCONN? Fantastic. Let the funds come from the University’s athletic budget and jack up the ticket prices. Do not put this on the back of taxpayers. That is just dead wrong – especially during these hard times.
Next – if a new arena will be built, take it out of downtown Hartford. They City rolled up the sidewalks at 5PM in the 80’s and 90’s. I would dare say it is worse today. We took our daughter to an exhibition at the Civic Center (now the XL Center) a couple of years back. At 3 in the afternoon on a Saturday, I could have floored the car on Trumbull Street and not had a concern for running anyone over. There was no one there. It’s a pain to move around the center of the City, and for what they want for parking? What? Are you New York City??
Connecticut needs to get its problems straightened and its priorities straight before there should be any consideration of funding a new arena – especially in Downtown Hartford. And the populace needs to decide if they will support a team even if they are doing poorly. Unless other things are taken care of first, I don’t care if you build a multi-billion dollar castle to sports franchises. No team will stay.
My two cents worth. No doubt this will generate a lot of controversy. And I say “good”. It’s time these things were discussed. If Connecticut intends to get and hold onto a pro team, that team needs to be supported through good times and bad. Until that decision is made, you have no discussion.
– Tom Ray
Former Engineer, Hartford Whalers Hockey
Broadcast Engineering Consultant
Thank you for you’re great and insightful comment. first off, I’m honored to be talking to someone within the organization and from broadcasting which is the field I am looking to purse a career in. Ever point you make is value, especially because I am a younger fan who never got to watch the Whalers as extensively as you did. However, I remain hopeful because I think that it would be a great source of pride to have a professional team in the state once again. With the success of both the Yale and Quinnipiac hockey programs, I believe that hockey is once again becoming the predominant sport in Connecticut. I understand that getting the Whalers back is a long-shot and will probably never happen, but I’m still hopeful. I agree with all of the reasons why this team can’t have a team with the state of Hartford and the state’s finance at the moment. However, if the state wisely invested it’s resources and improved the city of Hartford that then a comeback could be a possibility. With the state of affairs right now that will not happen. UCONN is the state’s best drawing card right now, but with declining facilities the University and state need to support it’s best asset. If UCONN get’s a new state of the art arena in Hartford it would help the UCONN programs continue their dominance in collegiate basketball. Then with a new arena, the NHL may start to consider Connecticut a possibility. Once again thank you for your contributions and opinions. I really appreciate it!
Instead of building the arena downtown, build it next to the Rentcshler Field complex where people will feel safer going to games as opposed to downtown Hartford, parking is better and the entire venue can be a draw for other events such as NCAA brackets etc.
That’s actually a great idea. I thought that downtown Hartford would be a great hub for the arena with the nightlife and restaurants, but you’re right that Rechcshler Field would provide better parking and easier access.
I think the failure of the CT Whale was evidence enough that there is no place for a NHL team in Connecticut anymore. They couldn’t have tried any harder to fill seats to those games. I went when they played the Providence Bruins, I had a great time heckling people who were cheering for the Whalers.