Making the Case for Bringing the NHL Back to Hartford

iceBy Dan Canavan

 Although many have weighed in on the likelihood of the NHL’s return to Hartford, few have examined what the city can offer to an NHL franchise.  While a new downtown arena is crucial to lure the NHL, Hartford has much more to offer.  Here are two of Hartford’s primary selling points:

1.  An Untapped Media Market

The Hartford-New Haven region represents the largest media market in the United States without a major league team, and no. 30 on Nielsen’s Rankings of Local Television Markets.  Historically, Springfield and Western Massachusetts were Whaler television territory, and the Whale previously played games in Springfield.  If you add Springfield-Holyoke to Hartford-New Haven, the region becomes the 21st market, just north of St. Louis and ahead of other NHL markets such as Pittsburgh (23), Raleigh-Durham (27), Nashville (29), Columbus (32) and Buffalo (51).  Naturally, there are no other major league teams in Connecticut competing for sports dollars.  In fact, the biggest competition facing an NHL team in Central Connecticut would be UConn basketball.  Although often cited as arguments why Hartford is not suited to host a professional sports team, the New York and Boston teams are not legitimate attendance competition.  As a life long hockey fan, I find it hard to believe that many people are leaving the greater Hartford area regularly to attend Ranger or Bruins games.  It is a convenient excuse, but not a real issue. 

 2.  Breaking Away from the (Wolf) Pack Mentality

Howard Baldwin, former owner of the Whalers, argues that the AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack needs better attendance figures for Hartford to warrant serious consideration for a NHL franchise.  I disagree.   Minor league sports market to different interests than the major leagues.  Minor league franchises, especially in cities that previously hosted major league teams, simply do not draw the corporate support, media attention or large crowds on a nightly basis.  Furthermore, the NHL is thriving in cities where minor league hockey teams never drew large crowds, such as Dallas, Denver, and Columbus.  Las Vegas continues to be rumored as a potential NHL city, but the ECHL’s Wranglers have drawn 4,275 a game on average  midway through the 2008-2009 season.  Kansas City is mentioned as a candidate for a NHL team (on account of KC’s new arena) and no minor league teams have even played in that city since the IHL’s Blades folded in 2001.  Although I agree with Baldwin that large Wolfpack attendance figures would be helpful to raise Hartford’s profile as a potential NHL market, attendance at a minor league event is not a proper barometer of Connecticut’s ability to sustain major league hockey.
 
Relocation seems inevitable, and the question remains whether the NHL needs Hartford to remain a 30 team league.  The construction of new arena, in challenging economic times, remains the greatest roadblock to bringing the NHL back to Hartford.  Considering all that Hartford has to offer in terms of a previous NHL history and the size of the media market, a new NHL team may in fact find that Hartford is the most attractive of the cities commonly mentioned as potential destinations for NHL franchises. 
 

dan_canavan1Dan Canavan is an attorney at Updike, Kelly & Spellacy in Hartford, Connecticut, and fan of the former Hartford Whalers.  He can be contacted at dcanavan@uks.com or 860-548-2672.

Comments

  1. “Although often cited as arguments why Hartford is not suited to host a professional sports team, the New York and Boston teams are not legitimate attendance competition. As a life long hockey fan, I find it hard to believe that many people are leaving the greater Hartford area regularly to attend Ranger or Bruins games. It is a convenient excuse, but not a real issue.”

    It may be very difficult to calculate how many people are traveling to New York or Boston to watch NHL games, but it is certainly not hard to calculate that Connecticut has, and always will be Bruin and Ranger territory.

    Fans and families for generations have followed these teams. They are not going to change their rooting interests just because Connecticut has a team. Look at the examples of the Islanders and the Devils. Those two teams, both with Stanley Cup success, still have trouble drawing fans in a huge metropolitan area where the Rangers are the traditional team of many people.

    It is such a minority of people who believe that Hartford or Connecticut needs their own NHL team. So, no, it is not an excuse but the reality of the situation.

    • You’re an idiot. The Whalers had one of the most loyal following throughout their stint in the NHL. The Islanders and the Devils have trouble drawing crowds because the, generally, suck every season. I used to attend Whaler’s games weekly and tickets were sold out all too regularly. CT residents have their own hockey culture– I’ve been a part of it since I could walk– and there is nothing that CT hockey fans would like more than to have the Whalers back. There’s more Whalers hats, shirts, hoodies, etc. in CT than there is just about any other hockey team.. and they aren’t around anymore, What does that tell you? I appreciate your wanting to be ‘honest’ and ‘straightforward’ about this, but don’t talk hockey if you don’t know hockey.

  2. I think it would be much smarter to bring a NBA franchise to Hartford. Basketball is much more popular in CT than hockey due to the success of the UConn program. There are dozens of former UConn players in the NBA such as Rip Hamilton, Okafor, Gordon, Butler, Allen, Boone, Williams, Marshall, Gay and Armstrong. Every night one of these guys played in Hartford people would go out to see them. The NBA also does a much better job marketing its players. People are more likely to go out and buy tickets to see Lebron James or Kobe Bryant than the top hockey players.

  3. how about an NBA team in Hartford? any thoughts?

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Ben Berger, Jarett Warner, Hanna Kim, Gary Solomon, Marilee Corr, Rob Romano, Tim Cedrone, and Dan Canavan – thank you for your fine [...]

  2. [...] not currently part of the club, which begs the question: will the NHL need Hamilton, Winnipeg and Hartford to survive without [...]

  3. [...] Making the Case for Bringing the NHL Back to Hartford [...]

  4. [...] Making the Case for Bringing the NHL Back to Hartford [...]

  5. [...] Making the Case for Bringing the NHL Back to Hartford [...]

  6. [...] Making the Case for Bringing the NHL Back to Hartford [...]

  7. [...] Making the Case for Bringing the NHL Back to Hartford [...]

  8. [...] Making the Case for Bringing the NHL Back to Hartford [...]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 924 other followers

%d bloggers like this: