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Lamont looking to bring NHL's Coyotes to Hartford

Gov. Ned Lamont's office confirmed a request to meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in an effort to express the state's desire to host an NHL team.
Credit: AP
Hartford Whalers captain Kevin Dineen waves to the fans after the Whalers final NHL hockey game, Sunday, April 13, 1997, in Hartford, Conn., against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said Friday, May 19, 2023, he's planning to meet with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman about the possibility of moving the Arizona Coyotes to Hartford. Connecticut has not had an NHL team since the Hartford Whalers left for North Carolina in 1997. (AP Photo/Steve Miller, File)

HARTFORD, Conn. — More than a quarter-century after the departure of the beloved Hartford Whalers, the city of Hartford, and the state of Connecticut still bleed Whaler green and blue. But, the effort to bring a professional hockey team back to Hartford has not died.

Governor Ned Lamont's office confirmed the governor has reached out to National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman to request a meeting with the NHL regarding hosting an NHL team, amid the ongoing arena issues involving the Arizona Coyotes.

Earlier this week, voters in Tempe, Arizona rejected a referendum vote that would have created a new $2.3 billion entertainment district in the city, and would have allowed the Coyotes franchise to build a new arena within that district.

"We are very disappointed Tempe voters did not approve Propositions 301, 302, and 303. As Tempe Mayor Corey Woods said, it was the best sports deal in Arizona history. The Coyotes wish to thank everyone who supported our efforts and voted yes," Xavier Gutierrez, Arizona Coyotes President & CEO, said. "While we wanted a different outcome, we remain grateful to all those who volunteered their time and talent. What is next for the franchise will be evaluated by our owners and the National Hockey League over the coming weeks."

Amid the tumultuous news, U.S. cities are clamoring at the hypothetical chance to host the Coyotes franchise, and potentially move the team to their city, including Hartford, Connecticut.

Lamont told reporters during a news availability that he has reached out to the NHL and hopes the meeting can take place sometime next week.

“This is a great hockey state and a great hockey town,” Lamont said. “It’s evidenced by the passion we have for the Whalers going back years — still one of the best-selling jerseys. I think we can guarantee them a very strong market right here, and a government that’s ready to come and be their partner.”

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin also chimed in on the hypothetical chance of relocating the Coyotes to Connecticut, tweeting a screenshot of the Coyotes' Twitter page with some scribbled edits to reflect a potential Hartford relocation.

The city of Hartford was the home to the Whalers franchise, beginning in 1975 when the team played in the World Hockey Organization as the New England Whalers, before moving to the NHL and renaming themselves as the Hartford Whalers in 1979.

The Whalers remained in Hartford until 1997, when the team was relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina, and rebranded as the Carolina Hurricanes.

A number of other cities have already been named as potential landing spots for the Coyotes should the franchise choose to move. Those include Atlanta, Portland, Oregon, Kansas City, Houston, Milwaukee, Salt Lake City, Quebec City and Hamilton, Ontario.

The Coyotes have had troubles in recent years regarding their home arena, prompting the team to move to a much smaller Mullett Arena at Arizona State University, which only houses a mere 4,600 fans.

There were plans to build a new arena in Tempe, which would have included a smaller and adjoining arena to be used for Coyotes practices, and as the home of the Arizona State University hockey team, but the project was withdrawn when Arizona State pulled out of the deal in February 2017.

The Coyotes previously played in Glendale, at the now Desert Diamond Arena, which has a capacity of 18,300. In November 2021, the ownership of the then-Gila River Arena and the city of Glendale chose not to renew their operating agreement with the Coyotes.

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It was then announced a month later the arena would lock the Coyotes out of the venue if they did not pay $1.3 million owed in taxes. The team paid their outstanding bills the next day.

The team says it will continue to play at Mullett Arena for the 2023-24 season, while they continue to look for a new permanent home, expressing their commitment to staying in the state of Arizona. 

Founded in 1971 as the Winnipeg Jets, the franchise played in the WHA, along with the New England Whalers, before both teams were brought into the NHL in 1979. The Jets were relocated to Arizona in 1996 and renamed the Phoenix Coyotes. The franchise changed its name in 2014 to the Arizona Coyotes.


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