Howard Baldwin, the former owner of the Hartford Whalers, is nothing if not determined. Baldwin has for some time now, been working to bring the NHL back to Hartford. Yesterday, he showed he is very serious.
In a news conference at Rentschler Field, Baldwin announced there will be a series of 20 outdoor games at Rentschler in February. Baldwin is trying to reconnect the Hartford (and the state for that matter) market to the sport of hockey. Included will be high school, college, AHL and NHL alumni games. A Whaler fan-fest and reunion is schedule for later this summer and will lead to re-establishment of the Whalers Hall of Fame with a new class of inductees in February.
Outdoor hockey is second only to the Olympics in jump-starting interest in the sport. Games in Buffalo and the one in Fenway Park last year were fan favorites and attracted national network television so Baldwin may be onto to something here. Part of his plan is to develop a sports television network that includes UConn sports—particularly men’s and women’s basketball. Getting the chance to see the UConn hockey team play outdoors at The Rent would attract fans. (The Shad would be among the first in line to buy tickets.)
Baldwin, now a successful movie producer (“Sahara,” “Ray” and others), can get it done if in fact it’s at all possible. The Shad was the point man for the state legislature’s Senate Democrats in talks with Baldwin some three or four years ago when he was trying to get Senate and House leadership to back his NHL efforts.
He’s engaging, energetic, obviously successful to the point where he has former longtime TV anchorman Pat Sheehan volunteering for him in trying to get the Whalers back to Hartford. Baldwin has a supporter in this corner.