A Step in the Right Direction? Or the Final Nail in the Coffin? How new Stadium impacts the Hartford Whalers

How does the new 60 Million $ Stadium in Hartford impact the Whalers?

How does the new 60 Million $ Stadium in Hartford impact the Whalers?

On June 4th it was revealed that the city of Hartford was undertaking a huge project in an effort to revitalize the downtown area. The City announced plans to build a 60$ million dollar stadium downtown that will be completed in 2016. The stadium, which will seat 9,000 spectators, will be the future home of the New Britain Rock Cats whose lease in New Britain expires in 2015. While the negotiations between Hartford and the ball club have caused a stir, mainly because New Britain feels betrayed because the team did not alert them of the possibility of a move, the big question that comes from this is who does this impact the NHL’s return to Hartford.

Since 1997 the question that has lingered is will the NHL return to Hartford? With this new stadium there are two school of thoughts. Either this new stadium will help push the city to build a new arena, or the new ballpark will prevent the city from exploring a new hockey arena.

Is Hartford making an effort to make itself more attractive for the NHL?

Is Hartford making an effort to make itself more attractive for the NHL?

For some people, they think this ballpark helps the Whalers. If the ballpark helps to revitalize downtown Hartford. If it attracts large crowds and is a financial success, it maybe the spring-board for building a new arena in the Hartford area. On the surface the stadium seems like a good idea, especially for the NHL in the city, but it is a huge mistake.

Who are the New Britain Rock Cats? They are a Double A baseball team. It amazes me that the city of Hartford has made such an effort to acquire a minor league franchise rather than try to lure a professional franchise. Look, I understand that this sounds like a good idea, but it could come back to haunt the city. The Rock Cats currently play 15 minutes aways, was it really worth it the spend 60$ million to move them closer? Instead of building a minor league baseball stadium, especially with baseball’s popularity declining, Hartford should have invested in a new arena. They won’t build a 200$ million dollars arena that could host an NHL franchise, UConn basketball, concerts, and other events ? Let’s face it. UConn basketball is the most popular sports franchise in the state. Why not build an arena for them? This just seems like a short-sighted and almost a conciliation prize type of move by the city. We won’t invest in a new arena but here’s minor league baseball enjoy.

It still is a long road for the NHL to return to Hartford in the future. The hope for Whalers’ fans is that this downtown ballpark will be a step in the right direction. A building block for revitalizing downtown and pushing the city to build a new arena. However, this could be a bad investment that will deter the city from investing in a new arena that an NHL franchise would need. Either way, the city’s decision to build this new ballpark will greatly impact the future of the Whalers in Hartford. Here’s hoping this ballpark will be the first step in bring an NHL franchise back to Connecticut.

College Hockey Key for Hartford Whalers Return

Quinnipiac's rise to National Power has helped hockey grow in the Nutmeg state

Quinnipiac’s rise to National Power has helped hockey grow in the Nutmeg state

In a recent interview Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy recently revealed that there are at least three groups that want to purchase an NHL franchise and relocate it to Hartford. While there are numerous obstacles such as the NHL brass and the arena situation in Hartford, one major key for a pro team to call Hartford home is actually hockey at the college level. True a new arena is a necessity despite the 35 million dollars in upgrades Malloy has said will be going into the aging XL Center, but at the end of the day it will be the interest in hockey that will get the NHL back. Arenas can be built, teams can be bought, but fan support needs to be earned.

While Governor Malloy has made it clear that a new arena is one of if not the biggest necessities for an NHL team, he believes that college hockey is the key component in making Connecticut a major hockey market. With so many professional teams in the area and minor league teams, it is a difficult sell to fans to watch the Wolf Pack in Hartford. It’s like asking college kids to have alcohol less beer at a party, not exactly a tempting offer. With the UConn

UCONN games could help build fan support

UCONN games could help build fan support

hockey team entering Hockey East next season, Malloy has said that if UConn can become a big draw in Hartford, it could be a key factor in proving that the state can support an NHL team. With the success of the Quinnipiac and Yale programs becoming key players on the national stage, if UConn can become a top tier program with drawing power, then Connecticut could be the home of some of the best college hockey in the country. If UConn can get great support, Malloy feels this will be a huge step forward in attracting the NHL back to the Insurance Capital. Malloy has been on record stating: “If you want NHL hockey back in Hartford, then you need to support UConn hockey”.

Whalers fans need to show their support

Whalers fans need to show their support

If Nutmeggers can support the three college teams on consistent basis with great attendance, that could make up for the lackluster attendance at Wolf Pack games and allow the NHL to have a franchise in Hartford. If anything, the fact that the Whalers are still being talked about despite leaving in 1997 just proves how much the franchise meant to the state. With fan trips to games, including some recent ones to Islanders games, the Whaler fans base is strong and ready for a team. Now with groups within the state bidding on other NHL

Fans? The Whalers still have a great following

Fans? The Whalers still have a great following

franchises and a governor who has already proven that he wants a team back in Connecticut, it is now on up to the Whaler Nation to take over. If we can prove that we support the great college teams that the state is providing while continuing to show support for the green and blue, the NHL will have to listen. With the Success of the Winnipeg Jets and a few teams that could be looking for new homes in the coming decade, why not Hartford? With the new realignment Hartford would be a perfect fit in the Metropolitan or Atlantic divisions. While there is still a long road ahead for a Hartford Whalers return, if the Whaler fans continue there support for the state’s college teams the question could be when not if the NHL comes home to Hartford.

To see the entire Governor Malloy interview (click here)

 

 

 

U Conn Do it! Why UCONN needs to build a new hockey arena

If UCONN hockey wants to make it to the big time, they need a new arena

If UCONN hockey wants to make it to the big time, they need a new arena

In 2014-2015 the Connecticut Huskies will enter new territory. Starting next year, the UCONN hockey team will be joining one of the better leagues in college hockey, Hockey East. At this point many people may even be asking “wait, UCONN has a hockey team”? It’s easy to be forgotten at a school known for its powerhouse basketball programs, and its recent dominance in soccer and baseball. Not to mention a school whose effort to build a national football program has gone off the rails in the past few years. By joining Hockey East, the hockey team will now be entering the big time. It’s been a program that’s been heading in the right direction. With more scholarships and an impressive 19-14-4 2012-2013 season, the program is ready to make some noise on the Storrs campus. There’s just one problem.

Let me see scholarships? Check. New uniforms? Check. A new coach with National Championship credentials? Check. A suitable arena to house the team? Oh there’s the problem. The Huskies do not have a suitable home which could be the final piece to the hockey puzzle. The solution? Give them the home they deserve. After years of pouring millions of dollars into the other athletic programs, it’s time for UCONN to invest in their hockey program’s future. Despite being built-in 1998, the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum is not a suitable home. This arena was built for a second-rate college hockey program,  which UCONN was at the time, but now it’s a joke that a Hockey East team calls this home. While the hockey program has announced that the Hockey East games will be played at the XL Center in Hartford, this is just another problem. The massive 15,000 seat arena can barely be filled for a UCONN basketball game and will look empty even if 5,000 fans show up to a hockey game. On top of that the arena is outdated, 30 minutes from campus, and will cost the school about 25,000$ to play a game there. What’s the solution to all of this? Build this team a new arena.

The Huskies need to build a facility that will not only house this team for the future, but to use as a tool to recruit top prospects. Let’s face it, despite the direction of the program, the arena situation is a major turnoff. If I’m a recruit do I want to play in two arenas that are terrible, or go to a beautiful arena of a Hockey East rival? Sounds like an easy decision easy to me. If UCONN wants to be successful in hockey just look 40 minutes south at Quinnipiac University.

After building their 52 million dollar TD Bank North Sports Center basketball and hockey complex in 2007, the Quinnipiac Bobcats program blossomed. Coach Rand Pecknold has even said that the arena is one of the biggest recruiting tools and why they have been able to become on of college hockey’s premiere programs. Six years after opening their new arena, the Quinnipiac Bobcats were playing for a National Championship, in large part because they used their arena as a major recruitment tool. UCONN has the resources and space to build a new arena. A 3000-4500 seat arena would be an adequate sized arena for this team. Bigger then their current arena but not as colossal as the XL Center. Plus, they can add all the bells and whistles to make it a state of the art home that will make Hockey East rivals envious. With Connecticut now becoming one of the better locations in the country for college hockey, thanks to Quinnipiac and the National Champion Yale Bulldogs, the state of Connecticut is becoming a major player in college hockey. We’ve seen how quickly the Yale and Quinnipiac programs have emerged onto the national stage, with nowhere near the resources that UCONN possesses. If UCONN builds a new arena and uses that as a great recruiting tool, I predict within 5 years after the arena’s completion UCONN will be a nationally ranked program. Hockey has always been a staple in New England culture, shouldn’t one of New England’s best schools share in the tradition of great hockey?  I’m not saying that UCONN can’t be great in hockey without a new arena, but it would defiantly speed up the process. Remember what they always said in Field of Dreams? If you build it they will come! If UCONN builds it, great hockey will come. Who knows. Maybe one UCONN hockey and basketball teams will be fighting over who can win the most National Championships and who is truly Connecticut’s team.

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.

 

 

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.

Cats and Dogs: College Hockeys next biggest rivalry

Yale and Quinnipiac could bring a hometown rivalry to the National stage

Yale and Quinnipiac could bring a hometown rivalry to the National stage

Cats and Dogs have always been natural enemies. So it was only natural when the Quinnipiac Bobcats joined the ECAC in 2005 that their biggest rival would be none other than the Yale Bulldogs. Fast forward to February 2013. Under the bright lights of the TD Bank Center in front of thousands of passionate fans wearing yellow “Beat Yale” shirts the Quinnipiac defeated those pesky Bulldogs to win the Heroes Hat 4-1. The Heroes Hat is the annual trophy  that the winner of this rivalry claims. This year Quinnipiac scaled the Everest in college hockey by becoming the number one team in the country and winning the ECAC Cleary Cup. Not to be outdone the Bulldogs have been a consistent top ten team for years and have solidified themselves as a top program. With the absence of Uconn Mens basketball in March Madness, hockey has been center stage in the Constitution. Quinnipiac backed up its number one ranking with a come from behind win against Canisius and beating Union in Providence to make it to the big dance in Pittsburgh. Yale has been the opposite, by playing the role of Cinderella by knocking off Minnesota and North Dakota to also punch their ticket to Pittsburgh.

From heroes hat to National hardware at stake

From heroes hat to National hardware at stake

Now the Bobcats and Bulldogs not only give Connecticut its first team to represent them in the National Championship but the possibility of them playing each other for the championship. QU and Yale make such great rivals because they are so different. You have the class and history of the Bulldogs, who were the first program in College hockey in 1893. Yale who represents the prestige and class of the Ivy league and the great tradition of college hockey. However, Quinnipiac has taken a much different route. They’ve gone from D3 club team to the best team in the country in just thirty years and have established themselves as the new hot shots in ECAC. Old school vs. new school, brainiacs vs frat boys, tradition vs. new success, little brother vs, big brother, Hamden vs. New Haven this rivalry has everything. Even their arenas reflect their teams. Ingalls rink represents the class and long running history of the Yale hockey program and is a cathedral f college hockey. Meanwhile on the top of a mountain in Hamden, the TD Bank center is the latest in innovation and technology with all the bells and whistles a hockey fan could hope for at a game. Despite their many differences there is no question that these teams have talent.

With Hartzell between the pipes the Bobcats believe they can make history

With Hartzell between the pipes the Bobcats believe they can make history

Quinnipiac Boasts a senior squad loaded with talent from goaltender Eric Hartzell to scoring machine Matthew Peca. Despite losing the first two match ups to the Bobcats Yale still has a dangerous lineup and these two teams know each other incredibly well. Yale also has been on a hot streak knocking off higher teams and gaining more confidence on the road to Pittsburgh. This will be Yale’s first Frozen Four appearance since 1952 and despite all of the hardware accumulated over its hundred history, they still don’t have a national championship. But before the dream showdown first the Bobcats must get past St. Cloud State while the Bulldogs have to knock off UMass Lowell. Either way

Forget backing in to the Frozen Four these Bulldogs are more bite then bark

Forget backing into the Frozen Four these Bulldogs are more bite then bark

this is a huge step for Connecticut hockey. Since the Hartford Whalers left in 1997 there has been a massive void to fill but the success of these two teams could soon make New Haven the hockey capital in the nation. Either way these two teams will bring the rivalry to the next level and I know people are praying for a Yale Quinnipiac final, it would be prefect. While the fan bases may scold if their counterpart wins the National Championship, it will be a win for Connecticut and could be the opening chapter to even greater college hockey in the New Haven area.  How do you think will win the National Championship? Think there will be a Connecticut final?  Who do you think win win Yale or Quinnipiac? Don’t forget to comment and subscribe!

The stakes have never been higher

The stakes have never been higher