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3 hours ago, Brian in Boston said:

 

Wake me when a Hartford NHL bid is being fronted by a local owner worth a half-billion dollars who can convince a media and real estate mogul worth $25 billion to partner with him in the venture. 

Mark Chipman's efforts on behalf of his hometown of Winnipeg are legendary. None had a bigger impact on returning a National Hockey League franchise to the city than convincing David Thomson - one of the world's wealthiest people - to join him in the effort. Chipman's passion and Thomson's financial wherewithal are the reasons that the True North Centre (now Bell MTS Place) was built and that the NHL returned to Winnipeg. Period.

When Hartford has a potential NHL ownership group that is worth a combined $25.5 billion AND is willing to pony-up just under 70% of a new arena's construction costs, then we can start talking about the realistic prospects of the Whalers returning to the National Hockey League.

I don’t disagree with any of this. 

 

I just rememebr a time when many people here, you among them, were poo-pooing the notion of another NHL team in Winnipeg even under the above scenario. What did you and a lot of others say? That even if the “dedicated billionaire” situation arose the NHL would never allow for it because moving back to Winnipeg “didn’t make any new hockey fans” or something to that effect. 

It was quite a topic of discussion for many years here :) 

And it still happened with Winnipeg when the pieces fell into place. 

 

Is the NHL returning to Hartford likely? No.

Is it impossible? Well to be frank? I’m not sure people who were wrong about where the NHL will return to despite their own self-assuredness are the people who I ought to listen to when discussing Hartford’s NHL prospects ;) 

 

I mean the Whalers brand remains incredibly popular and there are dedicated hockey fans there who would potentially support the team if it did return. 

Both of which make it possible for the “devoted billionaire” model to arise here as well. 

 

Factor in the above-mentioned fact that Hartford is part of a larger tv market than Las Vegas? The NHL’s latest venture? It’s not impossible.

And that’s all anyone here is saying on the matter. 

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I feel like that one period a few years ago when it seemed like there was a tiny-yet-real possibility that the Islanders were going to move out of New York in general instead of just Long Island was really Hartford's last chance. 

 

I don't doubt the Whalers' cult popularity - when I lived in Hartford I saw Whalers hats everywhere and people would still mention the team in conversation fondly as their lovable losers - but with their market sandwiched between the Bruins (plus their ass of an owner that would make the Whalers 2.0 a headache anyways, but that's a whole separate issue) and three New York teams I just don't see it happening.  This isn't Winnipeg in the middle of nowhere with no real threats to their market, so while I see the similarities in the fanbases and cities in a vacuum I don't think it is an apples-to-apples comparison, even ownership and arena issues aside.

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It's obviously not a perfect comparison, but London routinely has like seven or eight teams in the Premier League. Seven teams in the Boston-Washington corridor, which has about 50 million people, shouldn't be unworkable. While Hartford hasn't actually done anything since other than sit around, say "Bring back the Whale," then barely manage to build a minor-league baseball stadium on the real estate that could have been a 17,500-seat arena, it's not a place unfit for the NHL or an embarrassment to the notion of major pro sports or something. I still believe in the value of supersaturating the Northeast (viz., Hartford, Quebec City, Hamilton). It's at heart a regional league.

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On 8/9/2018 at 1:32 AM, KDubK414 said:

Same here NicDB! Born in January. The baseball field behind Pulaski High School is named for him too. 

 

Odd, I played there in high school (for Riverside) and never knew that. Or at least never put two and two together.

 

Makes sense tho considering that's the Duke's old stompin' grounds.

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On 8/3/2018 at 4:21 PM, the admiral said:

The Supersonics were arguably the most "established" team to relocate since the Brooklyn Dodgers. They won a world championship in the '70s (a dark night of the soul for the NBA but a championship nevertheless), had Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp in the '90s, and were generally a contending team with a passionate and savvy fanbase. Anyone could see that the Supersonics were righteously screwed when the team was sold to the businessmen who were underwriting the Hornets' visit to Oklahoma City, David Stern not allowing George Shinn to sell the Hornets to them when he wanted to. Crewcut Clay and his goons demanded a free arena in Renton that would have been exorbitantly costly to taxpayers and a logistical nightmare, and then bailed because they claimed they technically tried, even though it was an obvious fox-in-the-henhouse scenario from the outset. Sonicsgate says it all better than I can.

 

Whaler nostalgia is mostly about how idiosyncratic the whole team was, with its clever logo, goofy theme song, losing nature, dumpy arena, grim city, and that they were the only team in town, the NHL having a lot of those until killing off three of them in a row. I know that as an NHL fan, I love the league's weirdness -- God knows there's a lot that frustrates me about the league, but deep in my heart I dig the insularity and just-below-the-mainstream feel relative to the other three. And of course, the Whalers were another team that was done dirty by ill-intentioned owners and a league that didn't want them: a group of local bidders was turned away in favor of Michigan businessmen who wanted to move the team to suburban Detroit to stick it to Mike Ilitch. The fanbase was challenged to buy a sufficient number of season tickets to save the team, they did, and then that still wasn't enough. So that certainly engenders sympathy. But I think most of us romanticize the NHL as a tightly-knit, mostly regional league where everyone hates everyone else, and having Hartford tucked in there with New York, Long Island, Newark, Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, and Quebec City helps with that. I was even listening to "Rhiannon" while I wrote all that, just like that scene early in Slap Shot.

And my beef with Hartford is that they also played home games in a mall. By no means do l believe Raleigh was a better option. Hell, we live in metro Atlanta where locals still slightly grumble about the Thrashers going to Manitoba!!!! Seriously????

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On 8/6/2018 at 10:53 AM, leopard88 said:

 

I'm not sure I get the "vagabond franchise" part of this.

 

As for duration and legacy, the Sonics were around longer (41 years vs. 31 years).  However, the Colts won three NFL Championships/Super Bowls (1958, 1959, SB V) vs. the Sonics' one championship.

I was thinking the same thing, leopard. The Baltimore Colts were a structural core of the original NFL!!

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5 hours ago, Ice_Cap said:

I just rememebr a time when many people here, you among them, were poo-pooing the notion of another NHL team in Winnipeg even under the above scenario. What did you and a lot of others say? That even if the “dedicated billionaire” situation arose the NHL would never allow for it because moving back to Winnipeg “didn’t make any new hockey fans” or something to that effect.

 

I believe that my thinking, even then, was that it would take a Bill Gates-like figure - in other words, one of the world's richest people - to be convinced to pour money into an NHL-to-Winnipeg bid in order for it to have a chance of coming to fruition. Lo and behold, Mark Chipman was able to secure just such a partner in the aforementioned David Thomson.

I'd also go so far as to say that I've always been of a mind that Winnipeg represented a far better market for professional ice hockey than Hartford. First, the cultural significance that hockey enjoys in the city of Winnipeg and province of Manitoba far outstrips the sport's hold on the hearts and minds of Connecticut residents, those residing in Hartford included. And I say this as someone whose family possessed season tickets to the Whalers for the entirety of their stay - both in the WHA and NHL - in Connecticut. Was there a core group of die-hard Whalers supporters in Connecticut? Sure. Was said support anywhere near as widespread or entrenched as what a Canadian market - even a smaller city, such as Winnipeg - has to offer? Not even close.  

Further, it isn't as though residents of Winnipeg and environs would have convenient access to attending live NHL action within a stone's throw of their homes if the Jets hadn't returned. Winnipeggers are looking at a flight of nearly 400 miles to the nearest NHL market. Meanwhile, die-hard hockey fans in Greater Hartford can drive between just over 100 miles and 120 miles to Bruins, Rangers, Islanders, or Devils games. 

My point being, I don't see Hartford and Winnipeg having a whole lot in common as NHL markets.       


 

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2 hours ago, Brian in Boston said:

I believe that my thinking, even then, was that it would take a Bill Gates-like figure - in other words, one of the world's richest people - to be convinced to pour money into an NHL-to-Winnipeg bid in order for it to have a chance of coming to fruition. Lo and behold, Mark Chipman was able to secure just such a partner in the aforementioned David Thomson.

I seem to recall you championing the "Winnipeg will never happen because that wouldn't make new hockey fans" argument more than anything else. I'll take your word for it though.

 

2 hours ago, Brian in Boston said:

I'd also go so far as to say that I've always been of a mind that Winnipeg represented a far better market for professional ice hockey than Hartford. First, the cultural significance that hockey enjoys in the city of Winnipeg and province of Manitoba far outstrips the sport's hold on the hearts and minds of Connecticut residents, those residing in Hartford included. And I say this as someone whose family possessed season tickets to the Whalers for the entirety of their stay - both in the WHA and NHL - in Connecticut. Was there a core group of die-hard Whalers supporters in Connecticut? Sure. Was said support anywhere near as widespread or entrenched as what a Canadian market - even a smaller city, such as Winnipeg - has to offer? Not even close.  

Further, it isn't as though residents of Winnipeg and environs would have convenient access to attending live NHL action within a stone's throw of their homes if the Jets hadn't returned. Winnipeggers are looking at a flight of nearly 400 miles to the nearest NHL market. Meanwhile, die-hard hockey fans in Greater Hartford can drive between just over 100 miles and 120 miles to Bruins, Rangers, Islanders, or Devils games. 

My best counter to this would be to echo admiral's above point. That saturating North America's northeast isn't a bad strategy as far as the NHL goes. Because really, would being in Hartford be any worse than being the non-event and afterthought they are in Raleigh?

That's the kicker. Knocking Hartford as a market would be understandable if the team moved somewhere where they were well-supported. They didn't though. They moved to an overgrown New South suburban "city" where they barely seem to matter to anyone. There's no way the market they're in now is better then the one they were in when they were the Whalers.

 

And again, tv market size. The Hartford/New Haven television market is the thirtieth largest tv market in the US. Las Vegas is the fortieth. So given that the "grow the game" types can't shut up about how successful Vegas has been? Yeah. I don't see how Hartford's unworkable by any stretch. Larger tv market, more of a history with the game. Someone can make it happen provided they have both the money and the desire.

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At the very least, I have some confidence that the Whalers MK II would be a success. Not an amazing amount, but some.

 

Somehow, we’ve made it this long without bringing up Les Expos. They’ve become fairly popular these past few years, even though I doubt how successful they’d be as an expansion market. Sure, MLB did them dirty, but so did the Separatists, the city of Montréal (Le Stade Olympique/Éléphant Blanc), and the Blue Jays (claiming all of Southern Ontario). Fate didn’t work in their favor, and I’m not sure a new team would have more fortune (save for a VGK-level expansion draft).

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The new Expos would need to have coterminous TV territory with the Blue Jays, which is to say the entirety of Canada, but even that doesn't put butts in seats in Montreal.

 

EDIT: I realize that I have made a case for the Whalers based on a large TV territory, but if you can't tell the difference between the Yukon and Maine, I'm not the idiot

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Don't get me wrong, if I had a bajillion dollars I'd buy the Canes and move them to Hartford and I think it would be an improvement to the league.  There just isn't any obvious lure for the league or any owner to do so unless they have a connection with Hartford or really like the Whalers' logo or whatever.

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All of this being said about Hartford is true, but the fact remains that it is still a better option than Raleigh. 

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Why Hartford in the NHL isn't as weird an idea as it would intuitively seem, not when compared to where they moved.

 

 

Hartford is a short commute for Boston, NYC, Philly, New Jersey fans. Not to mention Providence or all the other similarly sized cities in that area. Also the northeast has good train systems. Nobody from Columbus or Pittsburgh, New Jersey, or Long Island is going to get in a car and drive to Raleigh damn North Carolina to see their hated metro division foe. The Hurricanes' closest NHL city is a 4 and a half hour drive. They're similarly sized cities, but Raleigh is servicing only Raleigh (and some of Durham, to be fair), Hartford would draw from more neighbors just due to the huge populations congested in the northeast. 

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5 hours ago, McCarthy said:

Hartford is a short commute for Boston, NYC, Philly, New Jersey fans. Not to mention Providence and all the other middle sized cities in that area like it or the Northeast's train systems.

And vice versa, of course. The Garden might be a tough ticket but I'd like to think Whalers fans could make it to Nassau, Jersey, and Boston and reciprocate. That's supposed to be part of the fun of it all. Just ask Nashville fans, who brag about what a great place it is to visit until you actually do visit and they whine about it.

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On 8/10/2018 at 2:30 AM, ElwoodCuse said:

Hartford cannot build a stadium for a AA baseball team without it being a disaster, and the dump the Whalers left is still there.

 

You mean the undisputed best ballpark in AA baseball? It was worth the headache, believe me. Plus, it's the start of a north end revitalization. Hartford has the potential to be a great city and I really want Hartford to be a great city. Dunkin' Donuts Park is not only the most New England thing ever but it's also a sign that the city can be what most people think it's can't be: fun.

 

Also, the Civic Center/XL Center isn't a "dump" per say. It's definitely different from the arena the Whalers played in and it has room inside for investment. They've done a good job redecorating the interior to help out UConn hockey, which is by far their main athletic tenant if you want to count attendance. People would be more excited about professional hockey in Hartford if the Wolf Pack didn't charge NHL prices. $15 for parking versus $0 for Springfield Thunderbirds games is a no brainer if you live in the Springfield-Hartford corridor. The unfortunate part is that you can't really expand outward as the arena is essentially suffocated by some of the busiest streets (by Hartford standards) in the city.

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1 hour ago, the admiral said:

And vice versa, of course. The Garden might be a tough ticket but I'd like to think Whalers fans could make it to Nassau, Jersey, and Boston and reciprocate. That's supposed to be part of the fun of it all. Just ask Nashville fans, who brag about what a great place it is to visit until you actually do visit and they whine about it.

 

For what it's worth, in the 1990s, a game against the Bruins in Hartford would yield probably 75% Bruins fans. Same goes for Rangers and Devils games. No one was a fan of the Islanders in the 1990s so they don't count.

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Sounds like Brewers games. If someone can sell northeasterners on the joys of eating potato salad in a parking lot, we can really make something happen.

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I don't know if this is the same elsewhere, but in Minnesota you will see people wearing North Stars shirts, jerseys, hats, etc on an almost daily basis. I hands down see more North Stars merchandise around than even our current NBA Timberwolves. Like I said, I'm not sure if it is just a local thing or not, but it is definitely a common thing here.

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23 minutes ago, Section30 said:

I don't know if this is the same elsewhere, but in Minnesota you will see people wearing North Stars shirts, jerseys, hats, etc on an almost daily basis. I hands down see more North Stars merchandise around than even our current NBA Timberwolves. Like I said, I'm not sure if it is just a local thing or not, but it is definitely a common thing here.

 

The Timberwolves kind of had a part in the North Stars moving, so it makes sense that people have eschewed them in favor of the team they drove out through arguments over concessions/adverts. There was also some stink about the arena having to be in St. Paul, but did the Twin Cities really need two arenas?

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