Remember the Whalers? Lamont speaks to NHL about bringing hockey back
It's been almost 30 years since the Whalers left Hartford, but Gov. Ned Lamont is making a power play to bring pro hockey back. Over the weekend, Lamont spoke to the National Hockey League about luring the Arizona Coyotes to Connecticut.
The Coyotes are in limbo. Last week, voters in Tempe, Arizona rejected a $2 billion arena and entertainment complex project.
“What is next for the franchise will be evaluated by our owners and the National Hockey League over the coming weeks,” the team said in a statement following the vote.
DOES HARTFORD HAVE A SHOT?
Connecticut’s bid is a long shot because Hartford has serious competition. At least eight other cities are also interested, including Atlanta, Milwaukee and Kansas City.
“No. 1, they need a Grade-A NHL-quality center to play at, and that means a real upgrade of the XL Center,” said Lamont.
Hartford's aging XL Center needs at least $107 million in upgrades, according to its owner, the quasi-public Capital Region Development Authority. But sports analysts said it will take a lot more than that to keep Connecticut in the game.
“An entire entertainment center around it – food, restaurants, bars, parking, hotels, everything,” said Paul Pabst, executive producer of the nationally-syndicated “Dan Patrick Show,” who also teaches sports media at Sacred Heart University. “Nobody just wants a stadium anymore; they want an entertainment venue.”
Pabst said an entire entertainment district could transform downtown Hartford, much like Nationals Park did to Southeast D.C. in Washington. But he said Connecticut would probably have to offer any team significant tax incentives to locate here.
“Go back to the Seattle Supersonics and watch the NBA,” Pabst said. “They fought for years over a new stadium. They fought for years and years, and all of a sudden, Oklahoma City says, ‘We’re ready; come on down. We've got a lot of money. We’ve got an entertainment venue planned.’”
WORTH THE COST?
Is it worth it?
“Bring jobs to the area, revenue, yeah,” said Eddie McAleese, of Norwalk.
But others wonder if chasing Coyotes is a waste of money.
“Depends on the talent, I guess,” said Ivan Castillo, of Bridgeport. “If we're not really winning any games, then I don't really think we should be spending too much on them.”
That might be a tough sell then. The Coyotes have one of the worst records in the NHL.
NOT THE FIRST ATTEMPT
Connecticut has tried this before. A bid to lure the New York Islanders failed in 2017. Instead, the team moved to the brand-new UBS Arena. And two decades earlier, the New England Patriots dangled a move to Hartford – only to take it back when the team got a better deal in Massachusetts.
As for the Coyotes, the team spokesperson declined to comment Monday on Lamont’s pitch.