Hartford is on NHL’s “radar screen” for Coyotes relocation
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Hartford is on NHL’s “radar screen” for Coyotes relocation

Yes! Bring back the Whalers!



More than 25 years after the Hartford Whalers left the NHL, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont is working to bring them back.

The Whalers, of course, relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina in 1997 to become the Carolina Hurricanes and now Lamont sees an opportunity to bring them back with the Arizona Coyotes' future up in the air. The Coyotes have had their arena plans in Tempe rejected in an overwhelming show of non-support by the community, after effectively getting evicted out of arenas in Phoenix and Glendale. This is a team without a home and Governor Lamont hopes that Hartford can become their new home.

In a radio interview with WTNH in Hartford, Lamont said he's had early discussions with NHL Gary Bettman about the possibility of the Coyotes relocating to Hartford.

“I’ve talked to Gary Bettman,” Lamont confirmed. “Right now the Coyotes don’t have a place to play on a permanent basis, so they’re looking around trying to find options. Connecticut is definitely on the radar screen.”

Multiple NHL insiders have reported that Houston, Kansas City and (incredibly) Atlanta seem to be the frontrunners for relocation. Skeptics have mostly stated that the Hartford market is already crowded with Boston Bruins and New York Rangers fans and that the Whalers wouldn't have enough of a draw to make it a successful NHL city.

“It’s a hockey center here. We love hockey. We have the national champions here,” Lamont said, referencing the 2023 National Champion Quinnipiac men’s hockey team. “And the fact that the Rangers and the Bruins are nearby is a good thing, because it means we have a lot of hockey interest.”

Lamont admits that there are major hurdles though before he can land a team in his state. Most notably, the Whalers' old home arena The XL Center (Formerly Harford Civic Center) will need signifiant upgrades, but recently received an $80 million renovation budget.

“We’re going to have to step up,” he said. “We’re going to have to show that we can sell the luxury suites. We’re going to have to show that we’ve got a buyer group if they want to make a change. We’ve got to show that we’re ready to upgrade the XL Center to make sure it’s NHL ready. I think we can do all of those things.”

Another sticking point is actually finding a local buyer for the team. But Lamont spoke cryptically only saying that he "knows a guy" with deep pockets who would buy the Coyotes in an instant if he got the green light to relocate to Hartford.

“I know them personally. They’ve expressed real interest,” he said. “Now there’s a lot of negotiations out there. I’ve got a development group that says, ‘Boy, if the Whalers were back into Hartford, I’d be very interested in doing more economic development and housing in that greater area.’ These are folks who have done it before, so that means a lot.”

It's a long road ahead if the Whalers are to make a comeback to the NHL, but you've got to admire Lamont's gumption.

“I’m going to make this a priority,” he claimed. “It’s a climb. We’ve got to keep climbing, but we’ve got a chance to get there.”

Make it happen, Governor. I'd buy a new Whalers jersey in an instant.