On January 2, 2013 the Hartford Whalers Booster Club held their first meeting of the new year with a very special guest speaker.
The guest speaker at the membership meeting was Howard Baldwin Sr. who is known throughout the sports and entertainment world. The HWBC wanted to invite Howard and Howard Baldwin Jr. to come and discuss the past, present and future of Hartford hockey. Unfortunately Howard Baldwin Jr was unable to attend, he was away on business. Baldwin said his son was hard at work on various projects.
The topic of talking hockey in Hartford happens to be the clubs' favorite topic, they didn't need to prepare to ask questions. Throughout the entirety of Baldwin's visit with the club there wasn't a moment of dead air.
Mr. Baldwin fielded questions like he was Phil Rizzuto playing short stop for the New York Yankees. There was discussion on what it was like in the World Hockey Association, a league that Baldwin was very involved in from the start.. A lot of people may not have known that Howard had put Hartford on the hockey map with not just a team, but also by making Hartford the World Hockey Association's headquarters. The questions to Baldwin about Hartford hockey jumped from year to year and from decade to decade. Hartford has a rich hockey history. The favorite era to talk about obviously is always with the Whalers. There's been a lot of hockey in Hartford, 38 years to be exact. As Howard Baldwin Jr. has said before the Wolf Pack is a part of Hartford hockey too. This city has had great AHL moments.
The biggest fear of the club as a whole is wondering if there will be hockey next year. No one really knows as the XL Center requests for proposals are not open to the public and the hearings are not open to the public as well. Howard was asked by members of the club if he knew how things might turn out. Baldwin said that he has no idea how things are going to turn out for hockey in Hartford next season. We will just have to wait and see, he siad. Members of the club still attend games of the current team in Hartford. They enjoyed talking about the Connecticut Whale and how great and loved Pucky the mascot is. Pucky is a Baldwin creation and was a huge hit in the St. Patrick'sDay Parade over the last couple of years.
The XL Center bids are definitely going to show where hockey in Hartford is headed. We know that the Capital Region Development Authority is examining the three bids it received on December 17. All three bidders have tremendous potential to steer the current market. However one concern is where will the current hockey team fit. It is a main concern of the HWBC to make sure that hockey in Hartford continues to grow with the hope that one day an owner, and a new building will entice the NHL to move a franchise back to Hartford. Howard Baldwin is not as young as he was in the 1970's but he is far from settling into a rocking chair and remembering his great accomplishments, he is still very busy. Howard mentioned that he recently finished a movie about Gordie Howe. The movie was filmed up in Winnipeg and is close to being ready for a U.S. release.
Howard had to know that one question would definitely be asked, whenever he is around a Hartford hockey fanatic he hears the question as often as; how are you?
Will the NHL ever return to Hartford?
In the times I have listened to Howard Baldwin through TV, radio, interviews or even in print, he still has the same answer. "Hartford needs to be a solution to an NHL problem." Baldwin answered. His answer is as consistent as the tide, and it's true. In 1979 the NHL wasn't looking for Hartford but it found Hartford and it worked. Howard noted in the visit that Hartford was one of the smallest markets in the NHL but had the 3rd highest gross in the mid to late 80's. The question was expected of course because the goal of the HWBC has always been to bring back the NHL. That mission will never change. Howard definitely knows that, and it may be why his parting words to the club were; remember, keep the faith.
I am sure that wont be a problem, 16 years and counting.