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)

 

 

 

Looking for a home? Five cities who deserve NHL teams

Honorable mention: Kansas City

It's built but no one's come

It’s built but no one’s come 

The famous line from Field of Dreams that “if you build it, they will come” didn’t work for Kansas City. Built in 2007, Kansas City believed that their state of the art 17,500 seat arena would help to lure an NHL team. Despite a few teams using Kansas City as a relocation threat, nothing has come to fruition. Despite being a beautiful arena part of Kansas City’s problem is the unknown hockey market which scares off possible suitors, especially when you look at the NHL’s success at entering “new” hockey markets. For now the Sprint Center sits in downtown Kansas City as a reminder that you should make sure you have a horse, before you build the barn.
5) Seattle

Since the departure of the Sonics, Seattle's been looking to fill the void

Since the departure of the Sonics, Seattle’s been looking to fill the void

With a new arena in the works located near both Safeco and Centurylinks Fields, Seattle has become a city that the NHL is closely monitoring. With no competition from an NBA team in the winter, a hockey team would be the sole focus. Also, Seattle is known for some of the most loyal and rowdy fans in the country. Can you imagine that home ice advantage?Logistically, it gives another opponent in the Western Conference, and it’s proximity to Vancouver could create a new and fierce rivalry within the NHL.

4) Houston

Houston could go from the minors, to the pros very quickly

Houston could go from the minors, to the pros very quickly

I know that NHL expansions in the south have been less then fruitful. More often than not there a disaster. However, the Stars have always been a great draw in Dallas, why not give the lone star state another team. Houston is currently the largest American market without an NHL team, and we all know that Gary Bettman is all about the bottom line. With a large untapped market, a chance for a great in-state rivalry, and a city that has never had NHL hockey, why not give Houston a team? Hey, everything’s bigger in Texas, why not make the NHL one of those things?

3) Hartford

Bring back the Brass Bonanza!

Bring back the Brass Bonanza!

Ok, I know what this looks like being a Hartford Whalers fanatic. If you want to see more on why I think the Whalers should come back check out my article here (Bring back the Brass Bonanza!). Despite Hartford’s need for a new arena, Hartford does offer a large TV market and a well established history in the NHL. They already have a loyal fan base and brand as the Whaler brand is still ones of the most valuable merchandising brands in the NHL. It’s a long-shot, but a team in Hartford would be better than some of the other team’s in the south. All I can say that if the Whalers were to ever return, Connecticut will be behind them. Hopefully, we get to hear the Brass Bonanza once again!

2) Oklahoma City

With the success of the Thunder, Oklahoma City could be a great landing spot

With the success of the Thunder, Oklahoma City could be a great landing spot

With the success of the Oklahoma City Thunder, a new arena, and a market with little competition all make Oklahoma City another city that could use an NHL team. While Oklahoma City may seem odd, it’s a city that rallies around its local teams. In a city similar in size to Winnipeg, the NHL has focused on small markets that can support a team and OKC could be one of those. Based on the rapid success of the Thunder and the support from the community, the NHL may just take a shot on OKC.

1) Quebec

Quebec, like Winnipeg, is trying to get a team back

Quebec, like Winnipeg, is trying to get a team back

If any team will get an NHL franchise back, it will be Quebec. With a brand new palace of an ice rink scheduled to be built by 2015, an established fan base, and a market that the NHL regrets leaving; Quebec offer the best option for an NHL franchise. They have a rich history with the Nordiques, and the NHL is finally realizing that hockey in Canada is their most popular sport. With Winnipeg’s success, and Canadians begging for more hockey, in my opinion it’s not if but when the NHL returns to Quebec. What city do you think deserves an NHL franchise? Do you agree of disagree and why? Comment below for your opinions.