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Unveiling tonight: The Connecticut Whale

Connecticut WhaleThe Hartford Wolf Pack are no more, replaced by a name designed to resonate more with the area’s former NHL team: the AHL‘s Connecticut Whale will be taking the ice for the first time.

It’s a pretty audacious move from former Hartford Whalers owner Howard Baldwin, seeking to reclaim the glory days at the Hartford Civic Center (now XL Center) when the Whalers were in town. Tonight the new Whale makes their debut against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, and Baldwin — who served as chairman of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1990s and was a minority owner of the Minnesota North Stars during the disastrous Norm Green era — is keeping hope alive he can bring back the NHL.

His plan is to build up the hockey community in the area. Besides shooting for better attendance at AHL games (the Wold Pack only averages 3,466 fans per game) he’s pushing hockey via a two-week outdoor-hockey promotion at Rentschler Field, where high-school, college and AHL teams will play on the outdoor ice.

It will be a long shot, to be sure. XL Center is not an NHL-level facility, and there are other cities (Quebec City, Winnipeg) that would seem to be a better shot at landing a team.

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