What Winnipeg Means to Hartford
A jet in Arizona may be flying home to Canada after fourteen years. I don't expect a hurricane to spin north to Connecticut from Carolina. Nor should it.
With the recent news that the Phoenix Coyotes may move back to their original home in Winnipeg, some have speculated what it means for hockey fans in Hartford. Will the Whalers return to the Insurance Capital? Or the real question should they?
Quick answer...they shouldn't.
The Hartford Whalers moved from Connecticut to North Carolina in the same southern swing that Gary Bettman moved the Jets to Phoenix. Bettman may have moved the Jets from small market Winnipeg, but he took the team away from die-hard Canadian hockey fans. New England may be one of the best hockey regions in the United States, but it's no Canada.
Hartford may be in between New York and Boston, but has a population of just over 100,000. Winnipeg has over 600,000 hockey fans. Hartford is a prime example of an industrial city losing population and a reason to go downtown.
The XL Center, formerly known as the Hartford Civic Center used to be filled with store fronts along with the arena that housed the Whalers. The stores left shortly after the Whalers. Today, the UConn men's and women's basketball teams fill up the 16,000 plus arena for most games, and is a college atmosphere in a pro setting. However, it is no longer a building fit for an NHL franchise, and the AHL's Hartford Wolf Pack have less fans than the Huskies' student section.
Don't expect a new arena in Hartford if the Whalers somehow make a return. Connecticut is in the midst of a budget crisis and getting the Whalers back is not high on the to-do list for Nutmeggers.
Just like any other sport, Boston and New York divide the state along fan lines. There may be more Boston fans across the state, but regardless, the Bruins, Rangers, Devils, and even Islanders dilute Connecticut. I'm not so sure that if the Whalers returned that all hockey fans in the state will drop their allegiance and go back and/or become a new Whaler fan. Also, the poor attendance at Wolf Pack games shows how the state's hockey fan population may not even be that strong to support a Whaler return.
Hartford may have more hockey players and educated fans than Raleigh, but it is no Winnipeg.
The Whalers don't deserve a second chance, the Jets do.
It is a good idea for the NHL to move the Coyotes back to Winnipeg and give Canada hockey fans another team that they have missed dearly.
Now that is a flight worth taking.
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