20 man Wolf Pack: Whale to be renamed

The CT Whale experiment has come to an end

The CT Whale experiment has come to an end

After three years of trying to re-establish the “whaler brand” in Hartford, the hopes of bringing back an NHL franchise took another hit this week. The team announced that it will be abandoning the “Whale” namesake and return to being  called the Hartford Wolf Pack. Despite failing it’s main purpose, bringing the NHL back to the city, the Whale created a  greater buzz with the fan base then the Wolf Pack. I think this is a mistake, because people in the community were willing to embrace the team once it honored the previous history in Hartford. Now the green and blue will be replaced by the red, white, and blue of the New York Rangers. At first glance this may not seem like a big deal, but to die heart Connecticut hockey fans it is. The Rangers were one of the biggest rivals of the Whalers, and it’s very difficult to love any part of your rival. It’s as if the love of your life left then soon after your rival drops their kid off at your door and tells you to love it the same way. When the Rangers told Hartford that the new minor league team would look nothing like the Rangers the fans of Hartford were pleased. However, this wasn’t the case as the Wolf Pack looked just like the Rangers with the same uniforms and colors. The death of the Whale is

The Wolf Pack are back, but will have a hard time appealing to Whaler Nation

The Wolf Pack are back, but will have a hard time appealing to Whaler Nation

unfortunately another failed attempt to once again attract a pro franchise to Hartford. With the declining health of the XL Center, and the lack of interest now that the team is no longer the Whale is another nail in the coffin for future NHL hockey in Hartford. I know for me its disappointing the Wolf Pack are coming back. At least the Whale reminded the city of it’s once great hockey tradition rather than having our rival shove their minor league squad down Hartford’s throat. Despite the Whale’s departure, the provided a great run filled with honoring past traditions and creating new memories such as Whaler Fest. This may be another punch to the gut regarding the future of the NHL in Connecticut, but as long as there is still hope and determination, it is one dream that can never die.

 

 

On the Road to ReDipietroion

Rick Dipietro has returned to Bridgeport to try to restart his once promising career

Rick Dipietro has returned to Bridgeport to try to restart his once promising career

It was supposed to be simple. Be the number one pick in the draft, become the backbone of the Islanders franchise and help the struggling franchise become Stanley Cup contenders. In 2006 that looked to be the future as the Islanders made Dipietro the face of the franchise with a then record 15 year contract worth 67.5 million dollars. Fast-forward to 2013 and the 31-year-old goaltender isn’t the toast of the town, but the butt of NHL jokes. Instead eating steak and playing in the bright lights of the National Hockey League, Dipietro finds himself eating fast food and riding the bus in the minors. The Islanders have put their future star on waivers, but no team will claim his albatross salary and broken down body. Since being anointed the future of the Islanders with the number one pick in the 2000 draft it’s been a roller coaster of a career. From shuffling between the minors and the pros early in his career to his dominating two-year run from 2005 to 2007, when he won 52 games and seemed to solidify himself as one of the top net minders in hockey.  At one point the tri-state area had a three-way debate between Dipietro, Brodeur, and Lundqvist as to who was the best goalie in the area. However, Dipietro’s career and the Islander’s success both took

From savior to liability

From savior to liability

a wrong turn after Dipietro put signed his John Hancock on his record deal. Despite his age Dipietro soon began to have annual hip and knee surgeries that many attributed to his butterfly style of goaltending. The knee surgeries caused Dipietro most of his starts as he became more likely to be on the DL then between the pipes. When he was sidelines in 2012 again he had appeared in all of 47 starts with only 14 wins since he signed his record deal.  What made that even worst was that he was paid 18 million dollars during that period and averaged 1.2$million dollars per win.  Since being drafted in 2000 the Islanders have only had three winning seasons and have struggled to find a suitable net minder between the pipes. While the Islanders are moving in the right direction, they’re currently looking to overtake the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and make the playoffs, Dipietro won’t be apart of it.  Many Islander faithful partially blame the franchise’s move from Nassau to Brooklyn on the lack of success over the past decade, and Dipietro is at the root of this. Despite his injury history, and lack of success in the NHL Dipietro is trying to make a comeback. A great piece on Dipietro’s comeback is here (click link), which I highly recommend. Right now Dipietro is trying to rebound with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in hopes that he can get back to the NHL. While he’s had mixed success at Bridgeport, he’s 5-5,  Dipietro is trying to stay positive and rebuild his game from the ground up.

Depietro has hit rock bottom, but he has the talent to get back to the top

Dipietro has hit rock bottom, but he has the talent to get back to the top

Despite everything that’s happened in his life, there is no question that Dipietro has the talent and the drive to be one of the top goaltenders in the NHL again. Personally I hope Dipietro can make a comeback and that a team will look past his contract fiasco and take a shot on him. I can relate because my body also betrayed me and ended my career prematurely. While concussions ended my career, I know what’s it like to have your body break down when you still have so much to offer. Hopefully Dipietro can make it back to the NHL and show the untapped potential he once showed as the number 1 overall pick in the draft. While he’s got a long road to make it back, Dipietro will have the opportunity to redeem himself and go from bust to NHL star once again.

Hockey History: The Beast of New Haven

The team that inspired my generation

The team that inspired my generation

April 9, 1993 was the end of an era for New Haven hockey when the New Haven Senators played their final game at the New Haven Coliseum. The Senators single season in the Elm City was one that’s often forgotten. When the Ottawa Senators bought the Night Hawks in 1992 they dropped the Night Hawks namesake, which was blasphemous among fans who supported the team for 20 years. The diehard Night Hawks’ fans despised the change so much that they decided not to attend Senator’s games. After a terrible lone season the Senators left and with them professional hockey in New Haven.

Fast forward to the summer of 1997, when David Gregory purchased the Carolina Monarchs brought a franchise back to New Haven. After years of an empty arena, a team would once again breathe life into the old Coliseum. Still this new team needed an identity. It was decided that the team would be called the “Beast” in order to pay homage to the city of New Haven. The Beast mascot symbolized the gothic architecture, especially the gargoyles, that the city was famous for. While this logo drew criticism for looking like a goofy gremlin, or a bad comic book character,  to New Haven hockey fans it was a cool and unique look that represented the great history

A logo that will always be one of my favorites

A logo that creatively represented the great history of New Haven

of the city. The Beast colors were derived from their parent clubs, the Hurricanes and Panthers, and soon Beastmania swept the city. The games were soon packed and hockey was once again the pulse of the city. Heck the New Haven green even had Beast paw prints on the sidewalk! The new minor league club was one of the more talented rosters in the AHL as they went 71-68-14 in their tenure while also added a dimension the Constitution state. Now with two minor league teams in Hartford and New Haven it created a bitter rivalry between the two cities,  a new dynamic that Connecticut had never experienced. While the Sound Tigers and Whale continue a similar rivalry today, Bridgeport vs. Hartford was nothing compared to New Haven vs. Hartford. We’ve battled it out for who should have been the capital and which city was the best in the state. The rivalry between the Wolf Pack and Beast went further than geography, but old hockey wounds. First, the Beast were the last piece of the Hartford Whalers to remain in the state which stirred up frustration since their was no NHL team in the state while also having people support the Beast since they were part of the former Whalers. Another reason this rivalry was so bitter was because of the Wolf Pack affiliation with the hated Rangers. Despite being told over and over again that the new minor league team would look nothing like the Rangers, it was funny how the Wolf Pack had the same colors and uniforms the Rangers had. This rivalry had everything from geography, passionate fans, and history.

The Beast left a lasting legacy on the Elm city

The Beast left a lasting legacy on the Elm city

Throughout their run the Beast had great rivalries with Hartford, Springfield, and Providence and provided the city with the with the high level of hockey the city had missed for years. Sadly the Beast, much like their predecessors would not last. By the end of 1999 the Beast would end their run in New haven as they left the Coliseum. There were many reasons the Beast left, but the primary reason was the declining Coliseum that desperately needed a makeover. Other factors included a somewhat declining attendance, and a general lack of support from the city of New Haven especially the mayor. While they may be gone, and there are many people who can be blamed for their departure, the Beast left a great legacy that many people wonder what would have happened if they stayed? The Beast provided my generation with great hockey and helped to inspire generations of kids to lace up their skates and become hockey players. In my previous article (click the link) I talked about how the Beast provided the spark for their passion and love I have for sports today.

I can still remember the life-long memories of going to the games with my dad and that my ultimate goal was to be a Beast player when I grew up. While only certain fragments of the Beast remain today, this is the only live action I could find click here, for my generation their legacy will live on in our memories. While the city tried once again to revive hockey with the New Haven Knights in the United Hockey League they faced many problems like the Beast. First fans were frustrated with the drop from the AHL to UHL and did not support the team like they had with the Beast of Night Hawks. Confronted with frustrated fans, falling attendance, and the same Coliseum problems confronting previous tenants, predictably the Knights didn’t last. It’s been years since the Beast put on those Gargoyle jerseys and skated on the freshly polished Coliseum ice, but for me it seems just like yesterday. While they may be gone they will never be forgotten.  Who was your favorite New Haven hockey team? Please take our poll below! Don’t forget to subscribe and follow my blog for my weekly posts. Please comment and let me know what topic you’d like me to write about. Thanks.

Gone but not forgotten, the ghosts of hockey in New Haven

In downtown New Haven there is a large parking lot at the foot of the Knights of Columbus building. For most people it’s just a sea of tar filled with numerous slumbering automobiles. However, for diehard hockey fans this is hallowed ground.

The ghosts of New Haven hockey endure

The ghosts of New Haven hockey endure

For 30 years hockey legends were born on this spot as they continued a storied hockey tradition the began in the 1920s. This unassuming lot gave generations of young hockey players their first taste of professional hockey. From 1972-2007 the New Haven Veterans Memorial Coliseum towered as a metal and concrete behemoth that many claimed was an eyesore for the New Haven skyline. However, you couldn’t judge this book by its cover. Despite its dreary and intimidating facade, the Coliseum’s heart is what made it special. There it provided a lifetime of memories and continued the storied tradition of professional hockey in the Elm city. While it may have been a dump, it was our dump. The memories the Coliseum provided spectators ranged from hockey  games to concerts which provided them with some of their most cherished memories in their lives. It was the heart of downtown New Haven and provided an atmosphere filled with crazy and

This towering behemoth cannot by judged by it's appearance

This towering behemoth cannot by judged by its appearance

die heart fans that supported whoever called the 12,000 seat indoor insane asylum its home. The Nighthawks were by far the most famous and popular tenants who played for 20 seasons from 1972-1992 and made four appearances in the Calendar Cup Finals. The Nighthawks games soon became regular sellouts as fans flocked to see the future stars in the NHL come through the city of New Haven. The team became famous for playing welcome to the jungle  which was appropriate for the steel and concrete jungle, especially for the fans in section 14.

For 20 years the Nighthawks became the heart and soul of New Haven

For 20 years the Nighthawks became the heart and soul of New Haven

It became a major home ice advantage because of the passionate fans made the Coliseum an intimidating place to play. The seventies and eighties were the heyday for hockey in the city of New Haven. Since the early 1920s hockey helped to define the Elm city, but soon the tide began to turn. By the early nineties minor league sports in  New Haven were being put on life support. It started with the Nighthawks ending their tenure in 1992 and being renamed the New Haven Senators. The change was very unpopular with the fan base, but what made it even worse was that after only one season the team decided to leave New Haven. For four years the Coliseum was dark until 1997 when a new team, The Beast of New Haven moved in.

1997 was the darkest year in Connecticut for hockey as the Hartford Whalers  (click link) left the Nutmeg state to become the Carolina Hurricanes. Now minor league hockey was asked to fill the void left by the Whalers. For hockey fans it’s like going to a party and being told you must have non-alcoholic beverages after enjoying the real thing for decades. The Beast not only had to try to fill this impossible void but also got competition. The abandoned Civic Center in Hartford was filled with another minor league team, the Hartford Wolf Pack while Springfield was awarded the Springfield Falcons. Stiffer competition, an impossible void to fill, and a building that had been neglected by the city of New Haven were slowly killing the great hockey history of the city of New Haven. As a former hockey player and lifetime hockey fan I have

I'll always remember watching the Beast with my dad and the great experiences we shared

I’ll always remember watching the Beast with my dad and the great experiences we shared

to thank my father  for taking me to my first hockey game. It was in 1997 when watched the Beast of New Haven defeat the Providence Bruins 4-2. I loved the Beast and can still remember meeting Peter Worrell, a hulking forward who became a superhero like figure. My dad always took me to as many games as possible and we would always sit behind the Beast net to root for my favorite player, goaltender Mike Fountain. While my dad took me to the games my mom helped make my bedroom a shrine to the hockey team. Heck one year I dressed as the Beast mascot for Halloween. While many people root for professional teams or college teams my team was my team. I would watch them on local tv and listen to every away game that I possibly could. My dream became to wear those white and blue uniforms with the giant Beast emblem on my chest in front of the hometown crowd. However, some dreams just don’t last forever.

In 1999 it was announced the Beast would be leaving and I was crushed. I sat teary eyed trying to figure out how could my heroes just be leaving? A nine-year old kid at the time, I couldn’t comprehend the situation and wondered why were they leaving me? I now know it was because Mayor Destefano refused to renovate the coliseum and didn’t see the importance of keeping minor league hockey in New Haven.  He didn’t appreciate the rich history that he was destroying for generations of fans in the Elm city.The state also invested in the new arenas built at Mohegan Sun and in Bridgeport which soon made the Coliseum obsolete. Why play at a deteriorating arena when a franchise could play at a brand spanking new one filled with all the bells and whistles? With the death of the Beast, the clock was striking midnight for hockey in New Haven. With their passing the last shred of the former Hartford Whalers was taken away from Connecticut. While the New Haven Knights became the new tenant in 2000, the drop from AHL to UHL hockey was noticeable. The reason people didn’t come to games was because the UHL did not have the talent or pedigree of hockey that the AHL had. Like the Whalers why should the fans just accept a decrease in the level of hockey then they were used to? In the AHL you had future NHL stars on every roster, but in the UHL you’d be hard pressed to find players who had a future in the NHL. I even tried to get into the Knights and while I did enjoy their games it just wasn’t the same.

Gone but never forgotten

This is what I pictured myself doing when I grew up and the uniform I would wear

Three years later the Knights would ride off into the sunset and with them New Haven’s hockey legacy. Our beloved old Coliseum was finally taken off life support in the early morning hours of January 20th, 2007 (link to watch implosion). I watched the destruction with my parents at my side as we watched almost a decade of memories collapse in 10 seconds. The life of the coliseum defined my hockey career as it began with the Beast and ended in 2007 with the Coliseum after I finally surrendered to my battle with concussions and hung up my pads for good. It’s been years since I first took the escalator from the upstairs parking garage down into the Coliseum and I will never forget it. I still can smell the hotdogs, Zamboni fumes, and the roaring crowds chanting “sieve, sieve, sieve” after every Beast goal. The song machine head followed by a booming voice that filled the cavernous arena with Ladies and gentleman! Here are your Beast of New Haven! To be honest the Beast began my longtime love affair with sports and if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be writing this today. The Coliseum created a lifetime of memories, especially with my father.

I felt like the luckiest kid in the world to be sitting in the stands with him as we went back and forth about the game. I wish the Coliseum was still there to inspire the next generation of young hockey fans. While Yale and Quinnipiac certainly have certainly helped to fill the void, the next generation of New Haveners will never get to experience the same joy that my generation was privileged enough to enjoy.  I always come back to those experiences that I enjoyed with my dad and I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world.  Now every time I head south on State Street and pass the gravesite of the once mighty Coliseum I can still visualize the concrete and steel racing towards the heavens while hearing thousands explode into cheers after a Beast goal. I can still remember ascending the massive escalators as I would look up into my father’s blue eyes and say “thank you for taking me to the game”. Then the images and sounds fade away as the sea of asphalt comes back into view. I always have to fight off a tear as I thank the Coliseum for the memories.

If you build it, Phantoms will come!!!

The Phantoms are coming back to PA.

The Phantoms are coming back to PA.

Ah yes Allentown, the city known for Billy Joel, Muhlenberg College, Dorney park, and Yoccos hotdogs. But now Allentown will also be known as Phantomtown. No, this isn’t a cheesy ghost town from a Scooby Doo episode, but a new mecca for minor league hockey. Starting in 2014 Allentown will be the home for the Philadelphia flyers American Hockey League affiliate and will be called the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. From 1996-2009 the Phantoms called the Spectrum Arena in Philadelphia, yes the spectrum where Rocky Balboa won the title, their home. The Phantoms became

Opening in 2014 the new arena on 7th St. & Hamilton

Opening in 2014 the new arena on 7th St. & Hamilton

one of the AHL’s most popular and successful teams, including two Calder Cup championships. The phantoms hold a special place in my heart because my first hockey game was in 1997 when the Phantoms played in my hometown against the Beast of New Haven. While the Beast may be gone, the Phantoms have endured as one of the longest running minor league franchises. But when the Spectrum was demolished in 2009 the team moved north to become the Adirondack Phantoms. In Philly the Phantoms had one of the biggest followings for a minor league sports team and soon there was a public outcry to keep the team in Philadelphia but ultimately they decided to move the team to Allentown. This was after a heated competition between Allentown and

The Phantoms will have a new look in 2014 too

The Phantoms will have a new look in 2014 too

Camden, New Jersey to lure the franchise back from Adirondack.  Allentown won the rights and began building the new “Allentown Arena”. The arena will be at the corner of 7th street and Hamilton Streets in the downtown and is expected to open in the fall of 2014. The new arena will hold 8,500 fans for hockey and 10,000 for concerts and is estimated to cost of around 270 million dollars. The arena has been deemed a multi-purpose arena and is looking to host between 140 and 200 events annually. The arena will feature retractable stands for concerts and trade shows and featuring multiple suites. While this price tag may be steep the arena is for much more than hockey. While the Phantoms will be the primary draw, and were the major reason for the development of the arena, its ultimate goal is help stimulate the economy for Allentown. While this a great for stimulating businesses for the downtown Allentown area, the hockey fans, especially the Flyer fans, will enjoy watching professional hockey and seeing the future stars of the NHL. I would recommend going for even none hockey fans, because in my personal opinion there is nothing more exciting than a live hockey game. Plus, you only live once! The new arena  will also allow more concerts and other entertainment that even a greater amount of the Lehigh Valley community can enjoy.

AHL hockey will bring new excitement to the Lehigh region

AHL hockey will bring new excitement to the Lehigh region

The new Phantoms Arena won’t just bring hockey to this area but opportunities and events that the Lehigh Valley couldn’t even imagine. It will without a doubt allow for the Muhlenberg and Allentown community to have new and memorable experiences. If you would like to see the construction progress and stadium renderings go to phantomsarena.com.  Thanks and Go Phantoms!!!