Thursday, March 29, 2007

So you’re saying there’s a chance

Rumors are nothing to get excited over, unless you happen to be the executive director of the Glens Falls Civic Center or a local hockey fan starved for good action since the Adirondack Red Wings left the region eight years ago. Sources in the American Hockey League –the same NHL-feeder organization the Wings once belonged to –claim the Hartford Wolf Pack’s management could be in the running for a new city, now that Connecticut officials have stripped Madison Square Garden of their contract with the Hartford Civic Center.

Granted, this is just a rumor. And true, there’s nothing even remotely official at this point. But there is a plausible chance if the moons are in alignment that the New York Rangers farm club –a team that has won one championship and made the playoffs in eight consecutive seasons –could be lacing them up in Glens Falls next year.

For those who don’t closely follow Hartford politics – and shame on you for not –here’s how everything has shaken out thus far. The Connecticut Development Authority recently awarded a six-year contract to the partnership of Northland Investment Corporation and AEG Worldwide, shunning a lower bid pitched by Madison Square Garden, the owner of both the Ranger and Wolf Pack franchises.

At the center of everything is Lawrence R. Gottesdiener, the chief executive Northland, who for years has toiled among the streets of the Connecticut capital in search of failing areas of the city where he could lend his own personal Midas touch. No doubt, one of those areas is the Hartford Civic Center, which has struggled to maintain fiscal viability ever since the NHL’s Whalers departed for the Carolinas nearly a decade ago.

Despite Hartford’s deep and endearing love for hockey, Gottesdiener apparently hasn’t show much interest in keeping the Rangers’ farm team as part of his plans for the arena. Perhaps that’s because the real estate mogul is more interested in attracting a team from the world professional sports –perhaps even one of hockey’s many teams.

See, minor league hockey has the ability to draw people to an arena, but lacks any such flare to draw people to a city. And with millions of dollars invested in real estate throughout city, Gottesdiener certainly isn’t interested in simply filling seats at the Hartford Civic Center.

So where does the other civic center come in? Well, faced with the possibility of a forced departure within several months, the Garden brass put out feelers this week for hockey towns within driving distance of Manhattan. The two cities that turned up were Danbury, Conn., and Glens Falls, both which have had the misfortune of losing their major draws this past year when their respective UHL teams bit the dust –not that the UHL was really much of a draw to begin with.

When comparing the two locations, Glens Falls seems like the ideal choice for MSG. First, the city has not only a history, but a tradition of hockey, which has been sorely missed by fans throughout the northern corridor of New York. Now, the closest thing to professional hockey is the new-look Albany River Rats, who now are ironically the farm team of the Carolina Hurricanes. Having the Wolf Pack would not only tap local fans, but also local Ranger fans, which resoundingly supported the club when they visited Lake George last fall.

Glens Falls also has the leg up on Danbury with regards to seating. While it’s a far stretch to bank on the civic center selling out for Pack games, it does boast nearly 2,000 more seats than Danbury, which incidentally, has already secured a new tenant for the departed Trashers. Not to mention, the Civic Center has remained darkened for more days this year than in the previous 30 years or so, meaning Garden officials would likely get a sweet deal on rent with little more than a promise to pay a bit of the aging facility’s upkeep.

Everything will be a bit clearer after Connecticut officials meet with Gottesdiener today and discuss the future for the southeasterly civic center. But were Glens Falls Mayor Roy Atkins even a bit savvy, he’d be on the horn with MSG as fast as his chubby little fingers could dial their number.

Glens Falls isn’t a sure thing for the Wolf Pack, but it could be the best thing in wake of the uncertainty swirling around Hartford right now. At least up north, they’d have a loyal fan base that would unwaveringly support the Ranger rookies as they work their way south to the big city. And best of all, a sucessful professional hockey team back in the region could make Barry Melrose, the mindless walking mullet, eat a bit of crow for his moronic comments about hockey in Glens Falls.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Melrose is a tool -- and apparently Steve Levy, the other owner was even worse.

Still, this would be great. Here's hoping it happens.

(Small point -- the Red Wings were part of the IHL, not the AHL. When the IHL folded some teams joined the AHL and some teams just ceased to exist. I believe -- perhaps they were briefly part of the AHL.)

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not true -- the Red Wings were most definitely an AHL team, from at least the late '80s/early '90s onward.

10:49 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

Actually, there’s a bit of truth to both of these comments. Indeed, never were the Adirondack Red Wings a franchise in the International Hockey League. However, the Grand Rapids, Mich., Griffins franchise started in the IHL in 1996. When Detroit decided to pluck its minor leaguers out of Glens Falls before the 1999 season, they signed an affiliation with Grand Rapids.

At the time, the IHL was spiraling into deficit. After the league collapsed in 2001, the six of the league’s strongest teams, including the now combined Griffins-Red Wings squad, were shifted into the AHL. Grand Rapids continues to serve as Detroit’s farm club to date.

5:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well... there you go. I moved to the area in 1996.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Shamus O'Drunkahan said...

Melrose... pffft.

9:37 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

Well, being from Buffalo, and with my Sabres doing quite well, I'm high on hockey these days and I'm sure I'd take a few trips 30 minutes north each year to see a Glens Falls team. Now, I'm a dreamer, and when the Nick/Pepsi/T-U center was approved in the 80s, luring an NHL hockey team to the area was one of the justifications. I know the pure numbers may not support it, but I point to isolated and shrinking Green Bay, WI and their support for the Packers. If the population from this northern outpost can fill Lambeau Field each year, then Albany, a growing area within 2 hours of quite a large population (think Hudson Valley north of Westchester) at the crossroads of several northeast NHL teams, can support an NHL team. Everything great starts with a dream, with people saying it can't be done, so...dare to dream hockey fans.

11:34 AM  

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