Hartford is stepping up with a case for the NHL, as governor Dannel Malloy is pitching a $250 million renovation to the XL Center.
As we wrote over the weekend, Hartford is seizing an opportunity to revive talks of obtaining an NHL franchise, which it has not had since the Hartford Whalers left for North Carolina after the 1996-97 season. That opportunity comes as the New York Islanders look for a new home in the New York area to address their ongoing arena issues.
Under the proposal announced by Malloy, $250 million would be spent over a period of years to renovate the XL Center into an NHL-caliber arena. The former home of the Whalers would receive its upgrades in phases, starting with $50 million from the governor’s capital improvement budget allocated for 2018 and another $75 to spent the following year.
More details are expected to be released on Wednesday. At this point, Malloy’s proposal is still subject to scrutiny from the Connecticut State Legislature, and is by no means final. More from the Hartford Courant:
In a press conference Monday, Malloy said he spoke with the NHL’s commissioner several months ago about the renovation plans for the XL Center. The call was prompted by the state picking up on tensions between the Islanders and the Brooklyn arena where the team now plays, the Barclays Center.
“I’m going to send another letter to the commissioners spelling out what we think would be appropriate in the modernization of that facility so he may have an understanding of what we are trying to do,” Malloy said. “Listen, this is a long shot, but if you don’t reach out and if you’re not in the discussion, then you can’t be considered.”
Malloy said he has pursued the return of major league hockey to Hartford throughout his administration. The governor said he’s talked with “individuals or groups of individuals who were in the process or hoped to be in the process of acquiring teams.”
Along with funding, one of the biggest questions remaining in whether the XL Center can land an NHL team is the status of the Islanders. All signs point to the team continuing to pursue an arena in the Greater New York area, with Queens and Belmont Park reportedly being in the mix of site contenders. Nassau County officials are also expected to attempt to lure the Islanders back to a renovated Nassau Coliseum, though it remains to be seen if the Islanders will come around on that proposal.
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