Hartford hockey barely misses out...again
(A crowd of just over 15,000 braved horrendous weather conditions on Saturday night at the Whale Bowl at Rentschler Field.)
EAST HARTFORD – Sometimes it’s as simple as one.
As far as the history of hockey in Hartford goes, it comes down to that little number.
One goal: In the 1986 playoffs, the Whalers reached the second round for the only time in team history and lost in Game 7 to the Canadians in overtime. That led to the famous parade for the team in Hartford, something we may never see again for a team that loses in the second round. If the Whalers were able to score first in that OT of Game 7 and maybe found a way to the Stanley Cup Finals, who knows how that may have altered the history of the organization. Look at what two Stanley Cup Final appearances (one win) has done for the team since it moved to North Carolina. They were once a struggling franchise, maybe a possibility for another relocation, and are now as stable as any team in any market thanks to that success on the ice.
One owner: All Hartford ever needed was one owner to believe in the market and put his or her heart and soul into making it succeed. Peter Karmanos purchased the team with the sole intention of moving it. He didn’t say it then, but looking back it’s pretty clear he wanted no part of the city. If someone like Ted Leonsis, who has built the Washington Capitals into a powerhouse franchise and will do so with his recently-purchased Washington Wizards, or Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, who is rebuilding his team’s arena and has made the franchise a hit in a non-traditional hockey market, bought the Whalers, I truly believe the team would still be here. When it comes down to ownership, it’s all about luck. Hartford, unfortunately, never had any.
One politician: All Hartford ever needed was one politician that saw the value of a new arena and what it could have done help to local businesses instead of following an obvious pipe dream of bringing the NFL here. Talking to you, John Rowland.
One day: Saturday night was supposed to mark the official revival of hockey in Hartford with the Whale Bowl, an outdoor event highlighted by a Whalers-Bruins alumni game and an AHL game between the Connecticut Whale and the Providence Bruins. Thanks to wind and temperatures that brought the wind chill under zero, a crowd of just over 15,000 showed up at Rentschler Field instead of the 30,000 that was expected.
In the last 24 hours, a lot has been written and said about the disappointing turnout, blaming Whalers Sports and Entertainment (the Whale’s marketing group that set this up) and the fans for the empty seats. Trust me, no one is to blame for this. The weather was that bad. Criticizing anyone is the easy way out.
For 15,000 fans to endure the physical torture provided by the weather actually speaks positively of this market. Too bad that is not the common sentiment from the majority of the people analyzing this.
If Saturday’s weather was as good as Friday’s 60-degree beauty, there’s no doubt this day would have been a smashing success, a party that would have turned into one of the more memorable sporting events in this state’s history.
Fans in every Whaler jersey imaginable from Gordie Howe to Kevin Dineen to even, yes, Brendan Shanahan, were in the parking lot, concourses and stands, celebrating each Whale goal as if they won the Stanley Cup. The festive attitude of the fans, which included many bad, but amusing dancers celebrating goals, could not have been more impressive. They certainly made the most of a bad situation.
Sadly, though, Hartford never seems to get that one break that will give it the push it needs. As each day, each game and each season goes by, it really looks like it never will.