Let’s start off by talking about the two people who were not smart enough to keep the Whalers in Hartford. Governor Rowland is too easy to criticize. You do not have to spend more than one sentence to try to convince anyone that Governor Rowland is a person that comes off as less than trust worthy. That leaves Whalers owner Peter Karmanos who in 1997 was so convinced that there were greener pastures outside of Hartford that he left with Hartford’s team and since then he is still suffering from the same attendance issues that he dealt with while he was in Hartford.
You are probably sitting there thinking; how in the hell would I ever thank Peter Karmanos for anything he has done for Hartford? Well he and Rowland did one thing that guaranteed Hartford a franchise someday in the future. Karmanos made what is quite possibly the worst business decision in the history of sports. When Karmanos left he took the team and he agreed easily to leave behind the most well designed logo in sports, the internationally recognized Whaler logo.
Knowing that you can totally see why he would take a shot at Hartford 18 years later. Most Hartford Whaler fans have been moving on, building a solid argument to bring back the NHL to Hartford and now they get the last laugh. Karmanos’s bashing of Hartford wasn’t based on anything but the bitterness of a man who realizes he threw tons of gold right into the trash. That’s right Peter Karamanos has reared his now un-pony tailed head because he is completely and utterly kelly green with envy.
Recently in the Detroit Free Press Karmanos threw himself back into the Hartford Hockey spotlight with a few words mired in complete inaccuracy. There seemed to be no need to concern oneself with an owner who could never find consistent success and whom had thrown the best logo in sports away for absolutely nothing. Thoughts of Peter Karmanos mostly in Hartford were he was an NHL owner who had done great charity work but had also made bad decisions with his hockey team. Most Hartford Hockey fans were completely prepared to let Karmanos’s story in Hartford lay in rest for all eternity but like a bad horror movie he was back. And this time it was very personal, maybe Karmanos is in need of a Hartford Hockey exorcism.
When Karmanos was asked about Hartford Whaler fans still being bitter at him for relocating the franchise he said that the season before they arrived the Whalers averaged 6,000 people a game.
Maybe he was confused?
Hartford did average 6,000 a game, last season when they broke Hockey East attendance records at the XL Center. In the year before Karmanos bought the Whalers the team drew 10.407 people. Somehow Karmanos forgot about 42% of a fan base that watched a bad team win only 27 games in an 84 game season. Perhaps in his old age Karmanos was referring to his inaugural season in Nascar country. The Hurricanes had ten games in 1997 where they drew crowds of 6,000 or less, four games had attendance numbers in the 5000 range and still several other games were in the seven and eight thousand range. The irony is just this past week 18 years later Carolina was dead last in NHL attendance.
Karmanos had all the time in the world to take the high road but he decided to continue with a revisionist history view of Hartford Whaler hockey. He mentioned Ranger and Bruin fans in Hartford and how they attended games when Boston or NY was in town.
Yes, that is true, it will be true again if a team comes to Hartford. It is also true of any market that has another franchise within a two hour drive. You know what Boston and New York teams had in their building when the Whalers played them? They had Whaler fans. Whaler fans still take a full bus load of people to Islander games and Devil games, should those teams hate having paying customers too?
The Whalers outdrew the Boston Bruins four times out of ten years in the 80’s, I guess Karmanos must think that Boston is a bad hockey market too. Bad hockey markets do not throw parades for teams that lose in the second round. Karmanos, like some XL management companies failed to learn the market that they were doing business in.
The Hurricane’s owner continued to paint Hartford as a small city. There is no argument there it is a small market by many definitions. Hartford is only 17 square miles, and has about 122,000 people. However those boundaries and limits don’t define the market. Since Karmanos left, Hartford has been the largest media market without a major league professional team. Hartford has about 1.3 million people within a short drive of the XL Center and 3 million within one hours drive of the XL Center.
The Hartford market by size is comparable to Nashville, Raleigh, Buffalo, Columbus and Birmingham. Hartford ranks much higher in other areas such as median income, disposable income and it has a better demographic of people ages 18-59 who normally buy tickets to sporting events. Apparently Karmanos is not aware of the market analysis just completed in February defining the viability of the Hartford Hockey market. Or maybe he still mad about making those poor decisions and that someone else is eventually going to cash in on that money making logo that he left behind.
Karmanos speaking up and bashing Hartford is a good thing, because bad publicity is good publicity. In a sense he hates Hartford but can’t stop accidentally helping it out. If Karmanos was so happy in Carolina the bitterness and low blow talk about Hartford would never have happened. It is proof without a reasonable doubt that he knows he made a big mistake leaving Hartford for a southern market.
Karmanos left a team that had averaged 14,000 a game in 1996-1997 to a place that only drew 9,000 a game in 1997-1998. Whaler fans do thank Karmanos though for leaving the best sports logo in history in Hartford. I don’t think Whaler fans wish him luck though, when you constantly make moves to make your franchise worth less and less you aren’t put in the NHL Hall Of Fame to be praised, you are put in the NHL Hall Of Fame as a hint that its time for you to leave.