SBD/June 27, 2012/Franchises

NHL Rangers Cut Ties With Whalers Sports & Entertainment; AHL Team Could Exit Hartford

Whalers Sports & Entertainment President Howard Baldwin has been "nudged off Hartford's sports stage and the future of professional hockey in the city is in doubt," according to Paul Doyle of the HARTFORD COURANT. The NHL Rangers, owners of the AHL Connecticut Whale, "have severed their business relationship" with WSE. The Whale will play at Hartford's XL Center for the '12-13 season, but the franchise's lease "expires after the season and an extension is not imminent." It is "unknown who will handle the day-to-day operation of the franchise for the upcoming season." AEG Management CT, which manages the XL Center, "could inherit operation of the team." Sources said that WSE's negotiations with AEG "have not been productive." The team has been "seeking more favorable terms after paying $25,000 per game in rent last season." If an extension is not reached, the Rangers "will shift the team to another market." It is a "stunning turn from the optimism surrounding Baldwin's return to the scene two years ago." Baldwin was "informed of the change Monday and the Rangers immediately removed all references to Whalers Sports & Entertainment from the Whale's website." Some fans "viewed Baldwin as Hartford's best hope of bringing the NHL back" to the city. However, the Rangers' hierarchy "grew concerned with the financial problems surrounding the team." Reebok, the NHL's equipment and uniform supplier, "was owed money by WSE and turned to the Rangers for help in collecting the unpaid debt." Sources said that Rangers officials "were infuriated by the issue with Reebok" (HARTFORD COURANT, 6/27). In Hartford, Jeff Jacobs writes Baldwin "was under-funded and over-dreamed." Ultimately, the Rangers "told him to get lost." Baldwin was "reckless in signing an onerous three-year deal" in September '10 (HARTFORD COURANT, 6/27).
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