HARTFORD – The short-lived life of the Connecticut Whale is over.
Hartford’s American Hockey League franchise will once again be known as the Hartford Wolf Pack beginning this fall, announced team owners Madison Square Garden and Global Spectrum, the new operators of the AHL squad.
The New York Rangers’ AHL affiliate has been playing in Hartford since 1997 and was known as the Wolf Pack until 2010 when it was renamed the Connecticut Whale and run by former Hartford Whalers owner Howard Baldwin.
“The name change coincides with our new partnership with Global Spectrum who will handle all of the marketing, advertising and game day operations in Hartford for us,” said Jim Schonfeld, assistant general manager of the New York Rangers.
Global Spectrum is a subsidiary of Philadelphia-based sports and entertainment company Comcast-Spectator and was recently hired to operate the XL Center in downtown Hartford, Rentschler Field in East Hartford and the Wolf Pack. Comcast-Spectator also owns the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers.
Chris Lawrence has been named as the Wolf Pack’s general manager along with GM of the XL Center and Rentschler Field. Before arriving in Hartford, Lawrence was the general manager of the Glen Falls (N.Y.) Civic Center, home of the Philadelphia Flyers’ AHL affiliate the Adirondack Phantoms.
“There is a rich hockey history here in Hartford,” said Lawrence. “Our primary goals are to revitalize hockey in the Hartford market, enhance the experience for the fans and bring a high-level of customer service to the venues in which we manage.
“In the short time we have been here, we can tell that Hartford is a very passionate community. We are creating an affordable family entertainment experience with the Wolf Pack.”
Passionate is a kind word for the fans of the franchise who are about equally split on the issue of naming the team the Wolf Pack or the Whale.
Stung by the loss to the NHL’s Hartford Whalers in 1997 to North Carolina, many Whalers fans have been slow to embrace the Ranger affiliate in the early years of the franchise. Meanwhile, a new generation of hockey fans who have grown up in the greater Hartford area over the past 15 years were pleased with the Wolf Pack brand and sad to see it go three years ago.
When Baldwin took over the team in late 2010, there was an upsurge of support for the team awash in nostalgia and the blue, white and green uniforms of the Whale. But when the money ran out so did Baldwin’s tenure running the club and support for the Whale brand.
The Wolf Pack staff will begin holding town hall meetings for their season ticket holders and potential season ticket holders for feedback and suggestions for the upcoming season. Date and location will be announced later this week.
A new website will be launched shortly. Fans interested in ordering tickets can call 1-855-762-6451.