Oh, Howard Baldwin, you are an inspiration. No, really. Your ability to dream in the face of reason is touching. Your situation reminds me of a very pretty girl who will tell her guy friends “wouldn’t we be the best couple? We’d go to the movies, sleep in on the weekends and have the best sex life.” Of course the guy friends would fantasize about going out with such a girl who is way out of their league while deep down the girl knows it will never happen. You, Mr. Baldwin, are not the pretty girl in this situation.
Stranger things have happened and very pretty girls have married ugly guys (but those men are generally famous and/or rich). Baldwin talks a good hype-game but even he has to know that it won’t happen. His plans call for a $105 million renovation to the XL Center with the hope of attracting an NHL team. The renderings of the renovations both inside and out of the XL Center do look stunning. It seems as if the area outside the arena would be turned into what Yawkey Way is for the Red Sox on game day: a place where fans can mill around, grab some food at a number of places, go to the team store, etc. Sounds like fun! Fun is something Hartford could totally use these days. The only problem is that the meat of the NHL season happens to be during winter when hanging outside ranks right up there with punching yourself in the face.
But $105 million is not exactly chump change. Would a private company be willing to invest that into the XL Center without a guarantee that the NHL will return? Probably not. Will the public back taxes to raise that sort of money? Very unlikely. Just read the comment section on any article dealing with taxes on the Courant’s website. Seriously, those people are nuts.
There are all sorts of arguments that Hartford could use saying they’re a better hockey market than a number of cities that currently have NHL teams (like, oh, I don’t know, some city in North Carolina which has no business having an NHL team to begin with!) The Hartford market is bigger than a few of the Canadian teams and Nashville, and Columbus among a few others. So we’ve got that going for us.
Another obstacle to the NHL’s return to Hartford is that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is a complete jerk. NHL fans hate him and he gets booed anytime he makes an appearance during the Stanley Cup finals. He doesn’t want another team in Hartford after helping his pal Peter Karmanos sack the Whalers in 1997.
It would be amazing to see the Whalers return and help give Hartford a new sense of identity in the region. People would initially fill the XL Center and cheer for the team like mad. Would the momentum be sustained after the initial awesomeness of the NHL returning? Who knows. But hey, let’s go out on that date! I mean, get the NHL back! It can happen…right?