This latest Whaler return rumor was released just shortly after 7 AM last Monday on Country 92.5 FM. The rumor was that the Chase family was looking into buying the New York Islanders and moving them to Hartford in 2016. Just about two hours later I read that WTIC's Scott Grey spoke to Mr. Chase and confirmed that the rumor was not true.
Grey did his job incredibly quickly. He said he had "no choice" but to confirm or deny the rumor. No choice? It should have been a first thought to jump on this, that’s what people expect from WTIC. Why let something like that fester, the anonymity of the caller is what peaked the interest more than the story. I didn't speak to anyone who put heart and hope into the rumor, but the interest in it did reach a tipping point that demanded further searching and questioning. Turns out part of the rumor was actually true, the buyer was wrong but the team visiting Hartford was correct.
There is always a rumor about the Whalers and maybe that's what has annoyed the Hartford sports media these last 17 years. The Larry Gottesdiener rumors come to mind from back in 2006, Mayor Perez and his failed attempt just a short time after. If you pick a name out of a hat of influential people in Hartford, they have probably been in a Whaler return rumor or attempt. This morning another piece of news came out from the Governor regarding the NHL, yet another rumor. The old adage came to mind again; where there is smoke there is fire. Intentional smoke or not the NHL story grew on social media from there and the mainstream media took the approach that this was just another wild goose chase.
Scott Grey tossed the 92.5FM anonymous call as a publicity stunt, most Whaler fans were cautious of that but still excited that someone was talking about why there were so many NHL rumors downtown. Grey said the latest NHL rumor was a radio station promotion and he made the blanket statement that we all fell for it. Grey said Whaler fans will always take the bait on any NHL story. He is wrong but there are examples of stories that ended up with legs but no merit.
Hours after Grey chastised Hartford Hockey fans Governor Malloy called in to 92.5 FM confirming that there is interest from several investors on bringing the NHL to Hartford. The Governors call to a whacky FM DJ show proved that he will talk and that the alleged rumors are actually something of substance.
Grey must feel that Hartford hockey fans are gullible, but this time it was the media that was gullible assuming the rumor has no parts in truth. Now Whaler fans can be gullible, no question, but the majority after 17 years are more hopeful than gullible. The Governors news of actual interest ended up proving Whaler fans right and the media wrong for thinking it was a total hoax.
According to more than one source Charles Wang, owner of the Islanders, visited Hartford and more than once. That is probably one reason the Islanders rumor grew. He apparently checked out the XL The investment group pointed out by an anonymous caller on the 92.5 Barnyard Show was wrong, thanks to the work of Scott Grey but appears that the caller was correct on the team involved. Why would Charles Wang be in Hartford at all? He was trying to sell the team but it appears his visits to Hartford were more of a courtesy call to the NHL. It doesn't look like he will sell to Hartford's mysterious investment group but he at least kicked the tires on seeing what Hartford had to offer.
Thats all? Yes, it doesn't appear that the Islanders have any intention of selling or coming to Hartford but they did visit. Hockey fans are smart enough to know that NHL teams that are for sale have no reason to be visiting another city with fictitious investment group. The only reason a team would visit is if the investment group was solid and big, big enough to buy.
As NHL rumors come and go don't be so quick to dismiss because as the case in this rumor, there was some interesting truth to it. The type of truth that only strengthens the hope of the Hartford Hockey fan. Gullible isn't the word Scott Grey should have used to describe a group that is this loyal. A kid born the day the Whalers left would be graduating high school today. Go find another former NHL city that can carry on this long without a team at all, and good luck with that.
We still haven't seen a parade for a second round playoff loser in any other city in the NHL. It happened here though, and yes you can tell me it was a score and some years ago but regardless everyone remembers it.
People remember the Whalers and they remember what it was like to have Hartford be a destination city. It should be easy to understand why Whaler fans jump to listen to every rumor. I know more Whaler fans than most who want the NHL back and I think they could show Scott Grey that there is a pretty informed Whaler Nation(under green), much like there once was a colonial militia long ago in this state. A large fan base that will mobilize if the NHL does return with a single mission to fill seats and entice large television contracts.
The Hartford Whalers Booster Club still being in existence shows some diehard market viability. They have also been getting very good publicity from Mr. Scott Grey. He mentioned reading their face book page and paying attention to some of the rumors and ripples of information found on social media. For the club to have his attention is great and good news for the club, he should investigate further using sources that have good information in the club.
Dennis House the senior anchor at WFSB channel 3 tweeted that he had confirmed the rumor was false as well. The confirmation was only that the leaked name of the investor wasn't actually the investor Malloy is referring to.
I appreciate it when Hartford sports media does its job. House isn't even technically in that field but he is appreciated greatly by Whaler Nation for the attention he gives to the capital city’s chances.
We all know that Jeff Jacobs from the Hartford Courant won't even consider speculating on a Whalers return until there are shovels in the ground on a new NHL sized arena in Connecticut. Even still he was nice enough to stop at the Whaler Fanniversary on April 13 at the Black Bear Saloon. Several Whaler fans and I chatted with Jacobs about the Whalers and the “long shot”, “pipe dream”, “pie in the sky” chances of Hartford being a major league city again.
Whaler fans have their ears to the ground more than the local sports media are aware of. There are still rumors out there that need to be brought to light. There were people who work downtown at the Fanniversary, people who live downtown, they are noticing things in the city that are changing.
Think about how wrong the media was here? Scott Grey’s said yesterday that the Whalers are not returning and that we fell for a false story and within 24 hours Malloy is on 92.5 FM saying there is a "reasonable chance" that Hartford could get the NHL. That shows you right there how completely out of touch some of the media comes off in Hartford, which way do Whaler fans go, who should they believe? Most Whaler fans will accept the truth whatever it may be but we don't really know what that is right now.
The Governor in the past 18 months went from telling us to forget NHL hockey and watch the Trinity Squash dynasty to saying he is going for a chance at the NHL during an election year. He said this morning that there are three groups, one national. He said he has had several discussions with those groups and their advisors. He said the state will participate in a replacement for the XL Center should a team show interest in coming to Hartford. That’s enticing to potential owners to have a state that is cooperative. There has to be more to this story, yet the media appears not interested as where to even start to put the pieces together.
Country 92.5 FM may have been pulling a publicity stunt but I am willing to bet that they didn’t even expect this much interest. The Governor called their station to do an interview on the possibility of the NHL’s return, no way they thought a small prank would bring in commentary from the highest office in the state.
Believe it or not there is a huge sports story in Hartford right now, its time for the media to show some interest in the positive side of that story and forget about the past blunders and false leads. You can tell the greater Hartford hockey fan base that you don't think the NHL will ever return but if you think there isn't a serious effort to do so you would be dead wrong.