Monday, July 30, 2012
Sad City's Fractured Fan Base
Professional hockey has been in Hartford for 37 years.
In that time there has only been two teams here from three different leagues but the fan base is not split, it's fractured.
There are about half a dozen fan factions.
The New England Whalers of the World Hockey Association moved to Hartford from Boston for the 1974-75 season. Hartford at the time was the head quarters of the WHA as well.
In 1979-80 season the WHA merged with the National Hockey League, joining the NHL was the newly named Hartford Whalers. They played in Hartford until the 1996-97 season.
After the NHL left Hartford the New York Rangers moved their top American Hockey League affiliate right in. The team was called the Hartford Wolf Pack and they won a Calder Cup in the 1999-2000 season. It was Hartford's first and only professional hockey championship. However the Wolf Pack attendance dipped for nine straight years until the team was rebranded as the Connecticut Whale in 2010.
With really only two teams how in the world can there be so many factions of fans?
There are New England Whaler fans, Hartford Whaler fans, Hartford Wolf Pack fans, Connecticut Whale fans, New York Rangers fans, and since Hartford is halfway between NY and Boston there are definitely Boston Bruins fans in Hartford.
It should be a melting pot of hockey fans that all enjoy hockey, but it's nothing like that at all.
If all the factions became Hartford hockey fans this market would be a top five AHL market, howls up and tails down!
Why can't they agree to that?
Everyone is always going to have their favorites.
I hear Wolf Pack fans talk about P.J. Stock and Al Montoya, and Ken Gernander.
Whaler fans talk about Ron Francis, Kevin Dineen, and Ulf Samuelsson.
If fans could appreciate and respect everyone's hockey history and then collectively watch the team that plays in Hartford the fan base would smooth over some of those old fractures.
It might not be easy but it certainly would be beneficial to the Hartford hockey market.