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Return of the Whalers? Connecticut governor hopes to bring NHL’s Coyotes to Hartford

The Whalers, and captain Kevin Dineen, played their final game in Hartford on April 13, 1997.RICHARD MEI/Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut governor Ned Lamont said Friday he’s planning to meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman about the possibility of moving the Arizona Coyotes to Hartford.

Lamont told reporters during a news availability that he has reached out to the NHL and hopes the meeting can take place sometime next week.

"This is a great hockey state and a great hockey town," Lamont told CT Insider. "It's evidenced by the passion we have for the Whalers going back years — still one of the best selling jerseys. I think we can guarantee them a very strong market right here, and a government that's ready to come and be their partner."

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Talk of a relocation for the Coyotes has taken on steam since voters in Tempe, Arizona this week rejected referendum for an $2.3 billion entertainment district that would allow the franchise to build a new arena there.

Connecticut has not had an NHL team since the Hartford Whalers left for North Carolina in 1997. The state has just one top-tier professional sports franchise, the WNBA's Connecticut Sun, which plays at the Mohegan Sun Arena, a 10,000-seat facility that is not built for hockey.

The possibility of a move to Connecticut is considered a long shot. Hartford's 48-year-old XL Center, where the Whalers once played, is in need of a major renovation. Its operator, the Capital Region Development Authority, is expected to begin taking bids soon on repairs that it has estimated will cost at least $107 million.

A number of other cities have already been named as potential landing spots for the Coyotes should the franchise choose to move. Those include Atlanta, Portland, Oregon, Kansas City, Houston, Milwaukee, Salt Lake City, Quebec City and Hamilton, Ontario.

Boston Globe Today Sports | May 19, 2023
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