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.

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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Move over Boston there’s a new home for college hockey

Quinnipiac is now #2 in the nation

Quinnipiac is now #2 in the nation

Yale is # 8 in the nation

Yale is # 8 in the nation

If Detroit is known as hockey town for the NHL, there is no question that Boston has been known as the college hockey town. Four college teams have dominated the bean pot region and the kings of this hockey kingdom are the Boston College Eagles and the Boston University Terriers. Both programs are perennial contenders with the Eagles winning three of the past five National Championships and the Terriers winning it all in 2009. While these two superpowers of college hockey have dominated for years Boston is also home to the Harvard Crimson and NorthEastern which have also had a major impact on college hockey. But hang on, because the power maybe shifting south and more specifically to Whitney Avenue. Only seven miles apart are two of the hottest teams in college hockey and what is fast becoming one of, if not the biggest rivalry in college hockey. The Yale Bulldogs and Quinnipiac Bobcats have always made noise in the ECAC Division but now they have roared into the national spotlight. In the most recent USCHO national poll both teams have cracked the top 10. While both have been in the top 10 before this is the first time that both schools have been in the top 10 at the same time. Both teams are riding major winning streaks and have been forces in the college hockey landscape. The Yale Bulldogs are currently riding a five game win streak and  defeated both Harvard and Dartmouth this past weekend. The Quinnipiac Bobcats have remained unbeaten in their last sixteen games and have achieved the highest ranking in the University’s history as the second best team in the nation. Both Yale and Quinnipiac have dominated the national field with a combined 13-0-2 record against ranked opponents this season. This will only add fuel to an already heated rivalry as both teams still have to play each other for their annual meetings at both Ingalls Rink, and TD Bank Center. Not only are these two teams pushing Connecticut into the national picture but another college team could soon enter the race. Just by saying Uconn or Connecticut the first thing people think of is basketball. Maybe a few people might think of the Huskies football team but when asked about the hockey program most people say wait, Uconn has a hockey team? Indeed they do and the so called forgotten child in the Uconn athletic department is now making a major splash. This past weekend the Huskies played tough against the Bobcats and lost 2-1 in

Uconn is joining Hockey East in 2014

Uconn is joining Hockey East in 2014

 the inagural meeting between the two. Uconn made  headlines this summer when it was announced that the hockey program would be getting a major overhaul. Not only would the program be joining the prestigious Hockey East conference but it would also be adding 18 scholarships for the program. Another major announcement was that for the Hockey East conference games is that the Huskies would move from the Mark Edwards Freitas Ice Forum to the XL center in Hartford. While the basketball program has the proper facilities the Hockey team doesn’t and is now exploring new options which include building a new ice rink on the Storrs campus. For the short term this is great news for the XL Center whose contract with the Connecticut Whale will expire at the end of the upcoming season and whose future is up in the air. However, the XL Center may not be the the longterm solution for the program because of it’s age and size. Uconn can just look at the blueprint Quinnipiac used for their success. The key cog in building the Quinnipiac machine came with the construction of the TD Bank Center in 2007 for 52 million dollars. The arena has been a major tool in recruitment and one of if not the major reason behind the success of the Bobcats over the past few seasons. While Connecticut has been known for the success of it’s college basketball teams, it is also famously known for losing it’s NHL franchise the Hartford Whalers in 1997, the only professional franchise the state has had. Connecticut hasn’t had the same identity since the Whalers departed for Carolina but now thee college hockey teams could put Connecticut back on the national hockey map. Now if the Huskies continue building in the right direction while Yale and Quinnipiac continue to dominate in the national field Connecticut may soon well dethrone Boston as the mecca for college hockey. Even though these hockey teams have a long way to go before the national tournament the buzz they’ve been creating cannot be ignored. Before we know it Yale or Quinnipiac may not only be in the Frozen Four, but they also may bring back the states first national championship in ice hockey.