Sports Commentary 2/18
Tomorrow is the day, Whale Bowl 2011
For all purposes, practical and otherwise, Whalers Hockey Fest at Rentschler Field has been such a success Howard Baldwin is already assessing the possibility of doing it again next year. So much of the ice time was snatched up for the two weeks of outdoor hockey that the entire nut has been covered, Whaler Sports and Entertainment guaranteed of at least breaking even, with the possibility for a little on the top depending on the final count for tomorrow’s showcase event, the Harvest/Properties.com Whale Bowl featuring a celebrity enhanced Whalers-Bruins alumni game followed by the regularly scheduled American Hockey League game between the Connecticut Whale and the Providence Bruins. The initial goal of setting an all time AHL attendance record has already been more than met with projections, depending on walk-up, running as high as thirty two thousand. The weather has been a double edged sword. With the winter pattern the region has endured it seems almost a matter of divine intervention that Whale Fest should drop right into a two week lull, but the blast after blast of storms that preceded the event added more than a hundred thousand dollars to the clean up budget, all of which, as Baldwin says, is “Coming out of the pockets of our jeans”. State tourism officials might want to take a look at the filled hotel rooms and restaurant tables of the last week and consider offering a little help, sort of like paying tuition for a seminar in Business 101 titled “Sizzle”. The event has been so successful the most disappointing thing about it has been the coaching success of former Hartford Whalers players, with some of the most formidable names from the past, Ron Francis, Kevin Dineen, Dave Tippett and Joel Quenneville all unavailable. But there will be a strong field on hand to represent the green and white against the Bruins legends with the support of several Hollywood types, many from the cast of the Baldwin produced movie “Mystery Alaska”. No moss gathers on Howard Baldwin. With the ticket count for Whale Bowl scaling the heights his team began work on schedule for Whale season tickets for next season, already running about two thirds ahead of the pace from a year ago, while average attendance since the brand change has increased by more than two thousand a game despite some admittedly “disappointing nights”. And there’s more to come. March 28th will be Gordie Howe Night at the XL Center when the game will be preceded by a ceremony honoring hockey’s greatest legend with a new number “9” Hartford Whalers banner to be raised to replace the rather worn one that’s hung there for years. Baldwin is already agressively looking to the future, particularly 2013, when the management rights to the physical property at the XL Center come up for bid, a window for potentialially removing Northland Investments resistence to creating a proposed mall with retails businesses and a sports bar that can co-create traffic with XL Center events. If you’d like to see what forward thinking looks like first hand snatch up one of those remaining tickets to Whale Bowl. It’s sitting on a football field in East Hartford. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.