The National Hockey League lockout may be over, but Gov. Dannel P. Malloy cautioned that hockey fans should not read anything into recent conversations about bringing a team back to Hartford.
Malloy said he spoke with individuals interested in bringing a team to the region, but downplayed reports that he had formed any sort of group to pursue a team.
“I have spoken to individuals who have expressed a desire to bring a team to Hartford,” Malloy said at an unrelated press conference Monday. That being said “there is not a year in which I have not been approached by someone who wants to bring a professional team somewhere.”
He said he understands the NHL’s recent, long labor dispute created an expectation that a number of teams may be up for sale, “but I have not put a committee together” to actively pursue a team.
“If you are sincere and you want to meet with us, we will meet with you. But to date I have had no meetings with anyone about their specific interest,” Malloy said.
In 1997, the NHL Hartford Whalers left for North Carolina and ever since then hockey fans have been trying to bring a team back to the market.
As recently as 2011, former Hartford Whalers’ owner Howard Baldwin tried to convince the state to invest in the XL Center with the hopes of attracting an NHL team.
In 2011, Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s now former senior communications adviser, had said that the governor would like to see something productive happen with the XL Center to make it more viable, but Baldwin’s plan requires the state to invest too much money.
The $105 million renovation plan Baldwin unveiled in November 2011 included overhauling the XL Center’s arena seating and luxury-level seating as well as its mechanical systems and concessions. The Rangers, however, severed their relationship with Baldwin in June. Malloy reiterated Monday that he has not spent any time considering that plan.
The Center for Economic Analysis scored the plan.
Malloy said he wouldn’t rule out plans for the XL Center if somebody wants to come in and build something on their own dollar.
“But the cost of these things coming out of the ground is pretty great, so let me be very clear I’ve not spent any amount of time considering that,” Malloy said.
Currently, the XL Center is home to the Connecticut Whale, the New York Rangers’ American Hockey League franchise. The Rangers lease at the XL Center expires this summer.