Will Perez Arrest Stall NHL to Hartford Movement?

htfd-city-hallLast week Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez was in the news for meeting with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to express the city’s interest in hosting a NHL franchise.  This week Perez is in the news again – for his arrest on corruption charges.

The question for Whalers fans and Connecticut sports fans in general, is how will the Perez arrest affect Hartford’s chances of building a new arena and ultimately bringing a professional sports team to Hartford?

Hartford’s credibility has certainly been diminished.  Perez was the face of the effort to lure the NHL to Hartford.  The workings of his task force were shrouded in secrecy.  The newly formed Sports Advisory Board has been quiet on the NHL issue, as has Governor Rell.

Recall when Hartford nearly landed the NFL’s Patriots in 1998.  The effort was led by a powerful governor, John Rowland (who would later face his own charges of corruption) and an endlessly enthusiastic and charismatic mayor, the late Mike Peters.  Peters even convinced officials of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to tour the city in 1996.  Former House Speaker Tom Ritter has said that had Mayor Mike been brought into negotiations to keep the Whalers earlier, the team may not have left.

whalers_puckThe point is that Hartford’s previous dealings in professional sports, although not ultimately successful, were guided by strong leaders.  The present effort to bring the NHL back to Hartford needs a new face – whether it be the next mayor, governor (Jim Amann might be up to the challenge), business leader – or faces, in the form of a grassroots community movement.

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  1. […] in January 2009, they have been silent throughout the collapse of the Coyotes.  Perhaps the ill-timed arrest of Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez stifled the return of the Whalers, at least for […]

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