The fractured hockey fan base of Hartford may be facing a crossroads.
In 1997 When the Hartford Whalers left there were plenty of AHL and IHL teams looking to move to Hartford, it was the chance to capitalize on the 27th largest media market in the country, at the time.
Today, Hartford may be looking at a similar situation. The Rangers may be leaving Hartford after a 16 year stay.
Before I tell you why I think the Rangers are going to leave let's talk about Hartford Hockey.
If the Capital Region Development Authority chooses a management company that wants to keep professional hockey in the XL Center, then Hartford hockey will survive and move on.
If the C.R.D.A. chooses a company that doesn’t want to deal with professional hockey, they could throw AHL hockey and any NHL hockey dreams down the drain, and this time it could be for good.
This is a scary time for Hartford Hockey, no doubt about it.
All three companies have submitted proposals to run the XL Center. There will be no problems with concerts, family shows, and UConn basketball and hockey. We will definitely have that in the XL Center.
What may be a problem is not all three appear to be interested in keeping the AHL.
Recently AHL Commissioner Dave Andrews said that the Rangers have had no company to negotiate with and that is why Hartford may be in jeopardy.
That is true but is it possible the Rangers have been in serious negotiations with another venue already other than the XL Center?
If you search Google and type the words; "Connecticut Rangers", you will see that the domain name is owned by Harbor Yard Sports and Entertainment LLC. The same company that runs the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport Connecticut.
Are the Rangers moving to Bridgeport?
If that is true are the Islanders coming to Hartford? If the Islanders are not coming to Hartford where are they going? Will other teams become interested in Hartford if the Rangers do leave? Will the NHL take notice of a vacant market that is still the 30th largest media market in the country?
Hartford was a hockey market with many questions already, now we have many more!
We still have to wait to see but if the Rangers do go to Bridgeport then they aren't looking to negotiate with the winner of the XL bid they may already have plans for their immediate future. The domain you will see was purchased for a duration of five years, January 2, 2013 to January 2, 2018.
The bad news if this is happening is that the 180,000 Hartford hockey fans that come to the XL Center each year will be forced to travel to Springfield, Bridgeport and Worcester, New York and Boston to get their pro-hockey fix? It's amazing that Hartford's city and state leaders threw away the NHL now they may be ok with throwing away the AHL?
I always claim that there is a viable hockey market here either a successful AHL franchise or a sustainable NHL team, there are plenty in Connecticut who love the game, but they all have to hope now that the state is not willing to downgrade the city's sports and entertainment for a second time.