The New York Post is reporting that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a longtime hockey fan, is open to bringing a professonal hockey team back to Hartford “and has approached at least one deep-pocketed potential buyer of a team.”
Since the Hartford Whalers left town in 1997, sports fans in the Hartford region have been hearing about numerous proposals and pipe dreams for an NHL team to return to the former Hartford Civic Center. Some have hoped that state officials could pull off a last-chance power play at the end of the game, but it has turned out to be a long shot. The Whalers were a key part of the region in their glory days, bringing thousands of fans to downtown Hartford on game nights and filling venerable establishments like Chuck’s Steakhouse.
Many of the players and coaches lived in Farmington Valley, including Pat Verbeek, a star in his heyday who lived in Avon. General manager Brian Burke and coach Paul Holmgren both lived in Simsbury.
After the Post story was published, Malloy’s spokesman, Andrew Doba, said, “It’s no secret that Governor Malloy is pursuing economic development opportunities of all shapes and sizes for the state. As such, people have reached out to him with non-specific proposals to move professional sports teams to Connecticut from time to time. But right now, they are just that – non-specific proposals.”
Malloy is not coordinating the development team, and the latest proposal was not his initiative. Instead, he is listening to people with interest in pursuing a hockey franchise.
Contrary to the Post’s report, Malloy said he has not “formed a group to look into the possibility of bringing a team” to Hartford.
The Courant’s Paul Doyle reports that:
The New York Islanders were considered a candidate for relocation, but owner Charles Wang announced in October the team would move from Long Island to Brooklyn in 2015. Another vulnerable franchise, the Phoenix Coyotes, is on the verge of being sold to former San Jose Sharks president Greg Jamison, who already has a long-term lease agreement in place with the city of Glendale, Arizona.
When the league does expand or shift an existing franchise, Quebec City is expected to top the list of destinations. The city broke ground in September on an NHL-ready arena that will seat 18,000 for hockey. The city was home to the Quebec Nordiques 1972-1995, before the franchise moved to Denver.
Hamilton, Ontario and Greater Toronto are also considered as possible sites for an NHL franchise. Kansas City’s Sprint Center, which opened in 2007, is considered a candidate for a franchise, while Seattle won approval in the fall to build a $490 million arena for basketball and hockey.
Hartford has been home to the New York Rangers’ American Hockey League franchise since 1997. The Rangers lease at the XL Center expires this summer. Madison Square Garden officials have said the company would not stand in the way of an effort to bring an NHL team to Connecticut.
The New York Post story, in its entirety, is below:
Despite admitting last summer that it is “unlikely” NHL hockey would return to his state, Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy is not giving up on the slapshot dream, sources said.
The Democrat has formed a group to look into the possibility of bringing a team back to the Constitution State and has approached at least one deep-pocketed potential buyer of a team, sources tell The Post.
The Hartford-New Haven TV market, the 30th-largest in the US and the biggest without a major-league sports team, saw its NHL Hartford Whalers leave for North Carolina after the 1996-97 season.
Hartford and other large urban centers in Connecticut are still suffering the effects of the recession and Malloy, like other governors around the country, is casting a wide net looking for economic solutions.
One solution Malloy has not ruled out is the NHL.
“Governor Malloy has formed a group to bring an NHL team to Hartford,” a source with direct knowledge of the situation said. Recently, Malloy approached at least one potential buyer, a second source said, and told the suitor the plan is to build a new arena as part of a bigger development that would be in the state, but not necessarily Hartford.
Malloy, in telling local TV last summer that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman had told him it was “unlikely” a team would be relocated to his state, said it would take an investment of roughly $450 million to bring a new arena to life.
A Malloy spokesman told The Post “persons have reached out to him with non-specific proposals” but that was it.
The NHL and its players announced yesterday they had reached a tentative deal to end a 113-day lockout. Games could start as early as the middle of this month,” the Post said.