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Hartford’s Return to NHL Unlikely without Gov. Malloy

Hartford’s Return to NHL Unlikely without Gov. Malloy
The Hartford Whalers played their final game in Hartford, Conn., on April 13, 1997, after an 18-year run in that city. Photo: STEVE MILLER/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy wants to bring back a National Hockey League franchise to the Hartford Civic Center but there are numerous hurdles to overcome for that to happen. Malloy is not seeking a third term as Connecticut Governor in 2018, which makes him a lame duck and with that unpopular issue may disappear.

The issue: spend a quarter of a billion dollars to renovate the Hartford Civic Center. Additionally, the market is squeezed between New York and Boston and there is not much of a TV market.

Hartford is a small market. Malloy pointed out that there are more Fortune 500 companies in Hartford than Buffalo, Raleigh, Columbus and Nashville, four cities that have NHL franchises. That is not much of a glowing endorsement in a business that values big market money.

In the sports world that requires three definite revenue sources for a franchise to make it, Malloy did offer government support but not corporate or TV monies. Connecticut has a budget shortfall. The city of Hartford has a big deficit and bankruptcy is an option.

There is another problem. Hartford failed in 2016 at an attempt at Double A Minor League Baseball. Hartford had a team but no stadium available and don’t think NHL executives are unaware of the stadium boondoggle. The stadium builders went broke and the facility never opened. The stadium did open for the 2017 season.

The National Hockey League left Hartford in 1997. The arena was old at that point at the age of 23. The TV market issue was a problem in 1997 and has not been solved 20 years later and there still is shrinking corporate base remains.

One other problem, Malloy offered Hartford to the New York Islanders owners who are looking for arena in the New York City area. But you don’t trade the New York City market for Hartford. A market that the NHL left because the Whalers franchise lost money.

By Evan Weiner For The Politics Of Sports Business

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.


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