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.

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