In the final analysis Howard Baldwin did more harm than good in the effort to restore Hartford as a viable National Hockey League market. In all fairness it wasn’t all Howard’s doing, though he did make some mistakes he can’t step away from. Installing his son as the face of Whalersports and Entertainment, thereby as the face of the franchise, was ill advised, and he spent money he expected to materialize that never did. He alone entered, eyes wide open, into an unfavorable lease agreement with the XL Center. However, an unprecedented winter worked terribly against him with record snow in advance of “Hockey Fest” at Rentschler Field leading to removal costs that soared to more than a hundred thousand dollars over budget while the sub freezing temperatures on “Whale Bowl” Saturday kept attendance to levels that not only severely damaged gate revenues but parking, concession and souvenir revenues as well. Coming less than three months after the highpoint of Howard’s tenure, the Thanksgiving weekend brand change to Connecticut Whale, Whalersports never recovered from the “February Fiasco” and the bills continued to mount, to the tune of a million and a half dollars and a stack of lawsuits. It was a bold, but ill fated experiment to test the temperature of the market place before taking another shot at the NHL. It turns out that for years, since the demise of the Hartford Whalers, we’d misjudged the enthusiasm of the market and that temperature was tepid at best. For my own part in the failed attempt, I apologize. I vociferously backed Baldwin’s return and predicted the NHL would turn to Hartford again within three years. I saw it as a 50-50 proposition. If anyone could accomplish the feat, I reasoned, it was Howard. It was going to happen within three years or it wasn’t going to happen at all. I got on the wrong side of the over-under. We’ll never forget the Hartford Whalers but the Hartford Whalers will never return. It’s time to move forward. The market is now indebted to AEG for assuming the day to day operation of the franchise and indebted to the New York Rangers for keeping their American Hockey League team here. 42 lost dates would have been devastating to the XL Center and would have officially turned Hartford into a ghost town. The latest developments don’t set well with the Whalers Booster Club but they weren’t able to generate enough support to make the Baldwin years successful and now they’ll do a disappearing act. Since arriving in Hartford 15 years ago the current team has committed itself to the market, it’s foundation supporting many charities and youth services. I know when they became the Whale they donated much of their Wolf Pack gear and equipment to a number of charitable organizations, so I don’t know if there’s enough left in their possession to facilitate a move back to their own roots, but I think it would be beneficial to everyone if the team once again was known as the Hartford Wolf Pack. It was an identity that never did the market wrong and returning to it would allow us to accept who we are and successfully and comfortably move forward with that acceptance. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.

Comments (2)
  1. Gregory Paul says:

    Amen to that!

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