EXCITEMENT ABOUT BALDWIN’S ‘HOCKEY FEST’ SPREADS

Howard Baldwin’s dream of bringing the NHL back to Hartford has included some ingenious marketing moves—getting control of the Wolf Pack and changing their name to the Connecticut Whale, coming up with some excellent branding (new logo, jerseys, etc.), positioning the first night of The Whale to garner 13,000 fans, and of course, the two-week “Hockey Fest” to be held Feb. 9 to 23, outdoors at Rentschler Field. The highlight of the event is Feb. 19, marketed as “The Whale Bowl,” when the Whalers alumni (former players) take on the Bruins’ former stars—the heroes of The Shad’s childhood. That fun event will be followed by a match-up of the Whale against the Providence Bruins.

The event got a fairly lengthy mention in the Boston Sunday Globe’s hockey column written by Kevin Paul Dupont. Of course, the Sunday Globe’s sport section is among the best and most widely read in the country. Dupont wrote, in part:

Baldwin will take it outside.  Howard Baldwin, formerly the front man for the Hartford Whalers and Pittsburgh Penguins, is back in Hartford and continues to thump the hockey tub with a vengeance…“I just tell everyone here to enjoy the journey,’’ Baldwin said. “Our [AHL] attendance has doubled this season, to around 6,000, and we should be able to improve that to the 8,000-10,000 range next season. If the NHL likes what it sees, then great, but it’s up to us to prove it.’’ Meanwhile, Baldwin’s cause celebre is the upcoming two-week Hockey Fest, Feb. 9-23, which will be a come-one, come-all protracted version of the increasingly popular outdoor hockey milieu.

All games — high school, prep, youth, college, and pro — will be played at Rentschler Field in East Hartford…All the ice-making equipment has been leased from a Texas company that, according to Baldwin, also provided the playing surface for the NHL’s first Winter Classic in Buffalo.“My son thinks we’re going to bang it out on the 19th,’’ said Baldwin. “If so, that means a total of 36,000, but I’m saying 30,000, just to be conservative.’’Overall, said Baldwin, 45 games will be played outdoors across the two weeks. The Hanson Brothers are expected to make an appearance on the 19th. “It’s hockey,’’ said Baldwin, “for all shapes and sizes.’’

The Shad, as a life-long hockey player, admits to being biased but the “Hockey Fest” seems like an extraordinarily fun event for the whole family. And it’s all part of bring the NHL back to Hartford.