This is from a newspaper article that ran in the Feb. 13th edition of the Hartford Courant, written by columnist Jeff Jacobs. Howard Baldwin is one of the original owners of the New England/Hartford Whalers: "Howard Baldwin made a big mistake Saturday night at the Civic Center. He invited me into his skybox, just two old warhorses talking about the future of hockey, talking about the future of sports in this town. Baldwin, if you don't know by now, is one of the producers of "Ray" and is up for an Oscar for best picture on Feb. 27... Howard could always dream. Dream like few before him in these parts. Dream, most likely, like few after him, too. Can you imagine winning an Oscar and the Stanley Cup in the same lifetime? Only Howard, baby... He teases me still about calling him a "B" movie director in print a dozen years ago. He is sensitive at times, but not vindictive, always looking ahead, seeing something where others see nothing. Somewhere under that great brush of hair of his lives Quixote... It is impossible not to like him."
Can you feel the love in this room? By the way, Jeff, turn your spell checker on; "Whaler whores" is not spelled w-a-r-h-o-r-s-e-s..."The folks in Pittsburgh loved him for winning the Stanley Cup. Many of the same folks would turn on him because he became part of the inflationary spiral that put small-market teams in jeopardy, and later on the brink of extinction that the NHL now finds itself."
Baldwin only literally bankrupted
the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team he owned after owning the Hartford Whalers, by handing out huge contracts to players like Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr, contracts that his team didn't have the money to pay for. Not the type of business sense it would seem worth pinning any hopes onto."Heading into Saturday night, the Wolf Pack had lower AHL attendance than even Bridgeport and Binghamton, where they rushed to leave to come to Hartford in 1997. And if that doesn't make a Hartford hockey fan sick, well, nothing will. The more the Wolf Pack win the less they seem to draw. Averaging around 7,000 for their opening years, they are down to 4,500 this season, 20th of 28 teams in a cavernous building. 'Depressing,' Baldwin said."
The night that Jacobs met Baldwin at the Civic Center for this article, the Wolf Pack drew a sell-out crowd of 9,801, their third 9000+ crowd this season. (Current attendance averages: Bridgeport 4758, Hartford 4737, Binghamton 4694, and the AHL as a league 5759.) Jacobs tries to taint the Binghamton Rangers' move to Hartford in 1997, but at the time the Whalers had just vacated the Madison Square Garden-operated Hartford Civic Center, leaving empty a large NHL-caliber arena with a modern weight room and other amenities. Not to knock Binghamton, which by all accounts has a top-notch arena, but they have maybe 5000 seats in their building. It's no suprise that MSG would move their minor-league team to a bigger building in Hartford while also giving themselves another tenant. As far as the Wolf Pack attendance this year goes, the dismantling and rebuilding of the Civic Center building around the hockey arena is on-going, leaving an unsightly mess and a loss of parking spaces, just one of the reasons why attendance might be down. Jacobs' refusal to write anything good about the Wolf Pack, as well as the continued efforts to bury the Wolf Pack by the likes of him and others who are still sore about the Whalers leaving town nearly 8 years ago, could be a small part of the problem as well."You don't need to be a sports marketing genius to see where this is headed. The MSG lease is up in a few years and if the Wolf Pack are still playing here after that, well, let's put it this way: I'll wear a Broadway Blueshirt at center ice that opening night. Don't worry. It won't happen. Whispers abound that MSG has all but put up the white flag and the Wolf Pack will be playing in Westchester County or someplace else at first chance. And when that happens you'll undoubtedly hear that Hartford not only failed at major league, Hartford failed at minor league hockey."
The bitterness of a Whaler whore/Ranger hater, throwing dirt onto a casket that isn't even in the ground yet. Jacobs, don't you write about hockey in a Hartford newspaper? Shouldn't you be defending the status of Hartford hockey, or are you just a moron?"Baldwin said he was not told by Gary Bettman to forget Hartford as an NHL market. So that's a start."
I doubt that Bettman would benefit from knocking any potential NHL markets, anyway, even if he felt like doing it. It still doesn't mean that the NHL would want to put a team in-between Boston and New York when there are other markets to explore that would better expand the NHL's geographical base. Besides, with the lockout going on and all, Bettman probably has bigger things to worry about than Howard Baldwin's underfunded, tissue paper-thin schemes to get back into the NHL hockey business."And getting the NHL back here is Baldwin's ultimate goal or, if you choose to be cynical, his impossible dream... Baldwin said there were no meetings with MSG on this trip. And with the NHL on the verge of calling off its season, no franchises are to be bought or sold at the moment. He has looked into buying the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. He'll sift through the heap of burnt franchises, looking for a bargain."
Baldwin's a corporate mudshark, looking to buy his way back into hockey at a bargain-basement price with money that he doesn't have (he offered $50 million for an Anaheim franchise valued at $108 million). For years he's been bumbling from town to town, floating offers as a way of getting himself publicity, and Jacobs is one of the few people still willing to fall for it."And if the NHL ever does come back, next time - and take this to the bank - it will be the Connecticut Whalers. The spirit of inclusion is a must and Baldwin knows it. He has vision. He had the vision to push the story of a blind man."
Meaning the movie that Baldwin's production company made about Ray Charles, who's a music legend and a Rock-n-Roll Hall Of Fame inductee; hardly the exceptional, Nobel Prize-worthy groundbreaking humanitarian achievement that Jacobs wants us to believe it is."I was notified I had to leave. No ticket. No skybox. Rich Coppola of Ch. 61 and Bruce Berlet of The Courant, two guys who love hockey in this town, were around, too. Adios, fellas, your press pass is no good. It looked so bad, so petty. MSG police shutting down Baldwin's little gathering."
Seeing as Baldwin, by his own admission, hadn't set foot in the Civic Center in 8 or 10 years, I doubt that he owned the skybox he was in. The one time I was in a skybox I had an individual game ticket, just like any other seat in the arena, and a press pass isn't a skybox ticket, only permission to use the press row facilities. Jacobs is again letting his anti-Ranger sentiments discredit some low-level Civic Center employees who were only probably following procedure, instead of being part of a Madison Square Garden/New York Rangers-led "anti-Baldwin" conspiracy as Jacobs wants us to believe. Heck, Jacobs was probably one of only a few people who even knew that Baldwin was in the building; the rest of us probably thought that gray-haired old fart seen creeping around the corridors was Don Imus..."It was then that it hit me. Baldwin had made a mistake letting me in, because if he thinks he can leave this lifetime without bringing real hockey back to this town he's wrong. His dream is my dream now."
Is this where the strings come in? Sorry, Jeff, but AHL hockey is "real" hockey, not some Slapshot league or like the CBA in basketball. It's the league where plenty of Canadian Junior and European players spend a year or two before going on to star in the NHL, and is right now (with the NHL lockout) probably the top hockey league in the world.
It's not my place to tell the Hartford Courant what to do with their newspaper, but you would think that they would be interested in promoting Hartford businesses, especially the biggest professional sports team in town (the Hartford Wolf Pack). Instead, Jacobs' fantasy piece was the headline article
in the Courant's sports section that day, while the game account of the Wolf Pack victory the night before was another dozen or so pages further back, several pages behind the story about the Yale women's squash team winning another tournament (among other news items). Jacobs was the Whalers beat writer for the Courant from '84 to '95, so he's obviously infected with the same madness that makes old Whaler fans hate the Wolf Pack and vow never to set foot inside the Civic Center for a hockey game again, even though the Rangers and the Wolf Pack didn't have anything to do with the Whalers leaving town.
For a better re-cap of the events that were involved in the Whalers' move to Carolina, you can check out this website: How's It Goin', Pete?
For a slightly more hysterical version, you can scroll down to the end of this page, hartfordwhalers.org
, for an anti-Baldwin account attributed to none other than Jeff Jacobs himself.