Will the NHL Return to Hartford?

whalers_puckLast week’s meeting between Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman renewed excitement for the return of an NHL team to the City of Hartford.  Although the fact that Bettman took a meeting with Perez is intriguing, the question on the minds of Connecticut sports fans is  whether anything has changed in Hartford’s pursuit of a replacement for the Whalers?

The relocation of an NHL team to Hartford is entirely dependent on a single factor – whether the City can finance and build a new downtown arena to replace the aging XL Center.  It is doubtful that the NHL will entertain serious discussions concerning a franchise in Hartford until an arena is constructed and operational.  A mere promise to build will not be enough.  Although Mayor Perez formed a task force to gauge corporate support for for the NHL, is there any evidence that talk of a new arena has progressed to an actual plan?  Perez himself cites the current state of the economy as a significant challenge to the prospective project.

The Whalers’ history in Hartford and enthusiastic fanbase appears to be a good fit for the NHL, whose attendance continues to struggle in non-traditional hockey areas.  In fact, four of the five teams with the lowest attendance in 2009 play in Phoenix, Atlanta, Columbus and Nashville, respectively.  And the team formerly known as the Hartford Whalers – the Carolina Hurricanes – rank twenty-third of the thirty NHL teams in attendance.  While Hartford certainly provides a better atmosphere for the NHL to flourish than the aformentioned cities, the real indication of whether Hartford will once against host the NHL will be whether a new arena can be built without an explicit promise of an NHL franchise.

For now, the return of the Whalers can be filed in the same speculative category as the possibility of a UFL franchise in Hartford and the relocation of the New England Revolution to Hartford.  Those teams, however, would not require a new stadium to make Hartford their home.

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Comments

  1. “The relocation of an NHL team to Hartford is entirely dependent on a single factor – whether the City can finance and build a new downtown arena to replace the aging XL Center.”

    That statement is hardly true. Namely things like corportate sponsorship; season ticket sales, and team willing to move; a local owner, and probably most importantly — a positive vote from the NHL board of governors.

    Included in this is overcoming the perception that Hartford is a loser when it comes to NHL hockey.

  2. With Perez in jail now, will this dream get washed away?

  3. Bring back the Whalers! }3

  4. Great post! Thanks…

Trackbacks

  1. […] be no grassroots or community efforts to bring a UFL team to Hartford.  Sentiment still remains to bring the NHL back to Hartford, and that movement has included politicians and community members.  However, the UFL does not […]

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