Howard Baldwin: Officials need to talk about the future of sports in Hartford
Hartford Courant Editorial
June 27, 2012
We come to praise Howard Baldwin, not to bury him.
Mr. Baldwin, who energized Hartford three decades ago by bringing the Hartford Whalers of the World Hockey Association to town and then ushering the team into the National Hockey League, came back to town a couple of years ago to try to rekindle the magic.
He took over management of the city's American Hockey League team in 2010 and renamed it the Connecticut Whale. He staged serious promotional events, hoping to draw more fans and the attention of the NHL. But attendance last season averaged 4,573, 23rd in the 30-team AHL, and financial problems forced the owners, the New York Rangers, to sever ties with Mr. Baldwin, The Courant reported.
The Whale will play at the XL Center for the 2012-13 season, when its lease expires. Where it breaches after that remains to be seen. On the plus side, UConn is moving up to Hockey East and will play 12 to 14 games a season at the XL Center beginning in 2014.
While Mr. Baldwin may yet pull a rabbit out of the hat, the apparent failure of his venture raises fundamental questions about sports in Hartford. For one, is Hartford a hockey town? The people who like the game really like it, but are there enough of them? Is the XL Center adequate for the region's needs? Who should own the building?
Major sports and entertainment events are great quality-of-life assets for the region. How to keep them coming ought to engage the political and business leadership this summer. The newly created Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau may be a good first step.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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