If They Build it, Will Whalers Come? New Plans in Hartford Could Provide Facility for NHL Return

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A Rendering of the “Renovated” XL Center. New Arena could finally give Connecticut a state of the art facility.

After breaking ground on a minor league baseball stadium earlier this week, the city of Hartford was investigating the long-term feasibility of it’s current arena. Despite the $ 35 Million renovations this past summer, the study was adamant stating this was only a temporary fix and would at most keep the arena serviceable for another five years. The Hartford Courant has revealed that the Capital Region Development Authority has proposed two long-term fans to not only prolong UConn’s use of the facility, but to possibly open the door for an NHL franchise down the road.

The CRDA has proposed two different options with both involving the current XL Center site. While there were plans to possibly move the arena, the best location was determined to be the location of the new ballpark which is now out of the question. The authority stresses the need for an overhaul of the current facilities stating the following:
CRDA: It is generally recognized that the XL Center’s functionality and ability to generate revenue are severely limited by its age, obsolete design, mechanical systems, limited size of the current building footprint, narrow concourses, limited fan amenities, shortage of restrooms and ADA deficiencies.

Option 1: New Arena
The first option would be to build a new arena on the existing site of the current XL Center. This option proposes that the current arena be completely torn down and built from scratch. This arena would have state of the art amenities and would allow for more efficient loading and off-loading of supplies at the arena. It is estimated to tear down and rebuild the arena would take 36 months. While this arena would be brand new and offer superior sight lines including over a thousand additional seats in the lower bowl, this would mean that the site could not host an event for three years and is the more costly option of the two.

Option 2: Renovate Current Arena 

The XL Center in it's current state

The XL Center in its current state

This would be the less costly of the options costing $250 Million. The benefits to this plan are that the arena could still be opened during the renovations as the upgrades would be done in phases, like how Madison Square Garden was renovated. This option (as seen rendered above), would still give the state a stop of the line facility and is assured by the committee to have the same draw as a brand new arena for an NHL team. However the drawbacks to this option are an extra $ 15 Million dollars to make this arena option “NHL ready” and not offer the superior same sight lines of a new arena.

Both plans are similar in that they both would get seating capacity of the arena down to 16,000 for hockey and 17,000 for basketball. The role of UConn will also be of the utmost importance because for the success of the arena it is recommended that UConn needs to become a partner at the facility rather than a part-time tenant.

While there is no question that the XL Center needs an overhaul, or to be replaced the big question that hockey fans want to know is will these actions bring the NHL back to Hartford?While there is no easy way to answer that question the best thing to say about these plans for the arena and the NHL is this. It’s a start.

A new arena will be much more attractive for an NHL franchise, but the CRDA has said that the renovation option will offer a state of the art venue for a team. Even with the agency’s study proving that the market could support an NHL based on numerous factors, the agency also pointed out that a new or renovated arena won’t guarantee a Whalers return.

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A new Arena won’t guarantee the return of the beloved Whalers, but it’s a step in the right direction.

As a hockey fan nothing would make me happier to see my team, the Hartford Whalers return. This arena isn’t just about getting the NHL back, but ensuring  long-term economic growth in the state.

A new XL Center would allow Connecticut to host more important sporting events, concerts, and shows while giving the University of Connecticut the home they deserve. This is what the state needs to do. Invest the long-term success of the UConn athletic programs and provide the region a state of the art facility. Hartford could host such events as NCAA Regionals while being considered a sight for prestigious events such as the Frozen Four. While this process remains in its infancy the fact that the state realizes the abysmal state of the XL Center is a step in the right direction. It knows the arena is a concrete catastrophe at the moment and needs to be addressed before it’s too late.

If Hartford follows up and goes through with either of these plans then the state of Connecticut’s athletics and entertainment will be heading in the right direction. Then… maybe then, the NHL may give Hartford the call they have waited for since 1997. Hockey fans can only dream that one day in Hartford the sounds of the brass bonanza will echo through downtown as fans scream in jovial delight, “The Whalers have returned”!

To see the full plans for both options at the XL Center click here

Sweet Redemption: 16 years later Yale rights CT’s greatest wrong

After 16 years After our greatest tragedy CT can be proud

After 16 years After our greatest tragedy CT can be proud

16 years to the day that Connecticut sports suffered its greatest tragedy, the death of the Hartford Whalers, Connecticut hockey fans finally had their redemption. It was a day of pride  in Pittsburgh when the championship for College hockey came down to two Connecticut teams, the Quinnipiac Bobcats and the Yale Bulldogs. The Battle of Whitney Avenue was taking place in front of an entire nation who had no idea of the emotional state of the Constitution State. Sure we have the Uconn basketball teams but our greatest pride was our only pro franchise the Hartford Whalers, who were ripped from a passionate fan base that has never fully recovered. Connecticut hockey  entered a dark age as it fell into the shadows of New York and Boston hockey for 16 long agonizing years. While the Whalers may never return, without question 2013 was a landmark year for Connecticut hockey. The Quinnipiac Bobcats became the number one team in the nation and put Connecticut college hockey back on the map.  By the end of the Frozen Four tournament the two teams who remained were both from Connecticut. Forget Boston or Minnesota, Connecticut is now becoming the home for college hockey. You had the premier team in the land the, Quinnipiac Bobcats versus the sixteenth seeded cinderella team of the tournament, the Yale Bulldogs. Whoever won would bring the first national championship to the state and would bring a new dimension to arguably the best in state rivalry that no one could have dreamed about. As a hockey fan I thought it be incredibly if either team just made it to the Frozen Four but both teams squaring off in the finals? Talk about wildest dream scenario. The game itself was terrific with both teams playing their best hockey of the season but in the end Yale was able to pull off the upset with a 4-0 win. Yale became the lowest seed to ever when the tournament and only the fifth team to record a shutout victory over arguable the best team in the nation.

Despite the loss, The Bobcats put CT hockey on the map this season

Despite the loss, The Bobcats put CT hockey on the map this season

Despite the loss the Bobcats represented the state well by being the number one team in the country for weeks and laying the ground work for even better success in the future. Now with the national recognition and the TD Bank North Center as recruiting tools it’s not hard to imagine that now QU can bring in even better players and be back in the hunt for the National Championship sooner than later. It’s amazing that a program that once was a DIII club team and that only became a DI program in 2000 was in the national championship just 13 years later. Despite losing many seniors, including star goalie Eric Hartzell the Bobcats have established themselves among hockey’s elite and now can recruit top talent by saying they are a national contenders. Yale, who became a hockey program in 1893 has added to its programs rich history by finally adding the National Championship to its incredible resume. Years after the last minor league

Yale has made New Haven the college hockey capital

Yale has made New Haven the capital of college hockey

team played in the Coliseum, Yale has made New Haven the capital for college hockey. While this year was exciting whats even more exciting is the future these programs have. With the national exposure and now one of the best rivalries in college sports I truly believe that these programs best days are still ahead of them. Back in 2005 when Quinnipiac and Yale first faced off in the ECAC no 0ne could have imagined it would have led to this. Whether or a Bobcat or Bulldog fan you still have to be proud of Connecticut for what they have done to put our state on the map this season. While the Whalers have left a hole that will never be truly replaced, Yale and Quinnipiac have made hockey fans proud and given our great state some of the best college hockey. Even during the game the sound of the brass bonanza rang loud and proud from both bands and became the fight song for Connecticut once again. Finally after 16 long years the hockey gods are once again smiling over Connecticut and I have a  promise for all Connecticut hockey fans. This is not an ending, this is just the beginning. Thank you Quinnipiac and Yale for the amazing ride this year and the even brighter future that lies ahead.

Bring back the Brass Bonanza!!!!! How Connecticut can get an NHL team back and why they need to

Hartford has been with hockey since 1997

Hartford has been without hockey since 1997

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.

It's an uphill battle but with the right course of action hockey could be back

It’s an uphill battle but with the right course of action hockey could be back

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

Whalers fans still miss their beloved team

Whalers fans still miss their beloved team

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 !!

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