As my last post seemed to generate some discussion – which I do believe is healthy – I thought I would do a follow up letter and continue to express my views on the Connecticut hockey landscape for the future. I hope that these thoughts will spark additional debate and some proactivity as well.
I want one and all to know that these letters are written in the interest of helping to mold the future for hockey in Connecticut. They are not being written to help sell my book. The book is a reflection upon past history and pays homage to the great people that made Hartford one of the premiere hockey markets in the NHL in the 80’s. That being said – perhaps there is something to be learned from how it happened initially—and how it could happen again.
Those of us who remember know that in the 70’s, 80’s, and early 90’s Hartford was revitalized by the building of a new Civic Center, the acquisition of a major league hockey franchise as a prime tenant, and the creation of an entertainment destination center around the actual arena.
The Hartford Civic Center was the FIRST to realize that this combination of assets - stores, restaurants, arena – would drive traffic to downtown. It worked. Anybody that says it didn’t work wasn’t there to witness it. To those that say it can’t happen again – you are sorely misguided. One just has to look at the sports landscape for the last 15 years and they will see that what was done in the 70’s in Hartford --- and then undone for some unknown reason in the 90’s --- is now being replicated throughout North America and, frankly, around the world. People joked about us playing in a mall – now that is the standard.
There are cities in North America today that don’t have the size, the television opportunities or the potential corporate support that Hartford has – yet they have major league teams. If anyone did their homework, they would see that these cities – such as Sacramento, Oklahoma City, Nashville, Winnipeg – had the political leadership to work with the corporate community to create the environment that would enable them to have new arenas to support major league teams that would then revitalize their cities.
We put forward a plan and presented it to the city, state and corporate community that we felt would be a major step forward in achieving our stated goals. Nobody stepped forward to support this plan. We have no pride of authorship – we were prepared to debate it and happily pursue any plan that might have been deemed “better”. The response from city and state was a resounding SILENCE. What quickly became apparent to us was that the “can’t do attitude” that seems to exist in Hartford now rose to the forefront. We tried to extend our lease so we could continue the dream of revitalizing the hockey market and improving the arena situation – and hopefully bring NHL back to Hartford. There were those in leadership positions that could have helped us, but rather than help, they not only didn’t support us, they actively worked against us.
Why is that? Is it ego? I am fascinated to see that now 35 million dollars is being pumped into the XL Center. I am now seeing that the city is willing to spend 65 million dollars to build a minor league baseball stadium in downtown Hartford. Frankly, that all could have some value, but my math says that is a total of 100 million that could have gone toward a brand new state of-the-art arena.
My constructive message for this letter is that Whaler Nation should be proactive and put pressure on leadership in the city and the state to make decisions based on what is best for the city and the state and stuff their egos and learn from history. We need to put people back on the streets of what was once a great city. We are HARTFORD - we aren’t Boston or New York.
We are HARTFORD. Isn’t it time to start showing some pride in ourselves and realize we don’t have to be subservient to any other city?
Best regards –