June 29, 2012

Rangers sever ties with Whalers Sports & Entertainment

By Jesse Connolly

After just 21 months since he took control of the Hartford Wolf Pack and subsequently rebranded them the Connecticut Whale, Howard Baldwin’s plan to revive the city of Hartford as a hockey market isn’t quite dead yet, but his company, Whalers Sports & Entertainment, won’t be the group to accomplish that mission. 

Defenseman Tim Erixon was a standout player for the Whale during his rookie year in 2011-12. (Getty Images)

The New York Rangers, who own the Whale, severed ties with Whalers Sports & Entertainment, according to the Hartford Courant. It remains unclear who will handle day-to-day operations for the franchise in 2012-13.

The Whale will continue to play at the XL Center, but their lease there expires at the conclusion of next season. If an extension isn’t agreed upon, the Rangers will likely shift their farm team to another market.

Baldwin had hoped to generate enough interest in order to potentially put an NHL franchise back in Hartford. A founded of the Whalers in the early ‘70s, Baldwin was responsible for the team jumping from the WHA to the NHL in 1979.

But it appears Baldwin aimed too high, too soon, and didn’t have the funding necessary to accomplish what he set out to. It didn’t take long for the team to face financial struggles, as they ranked 23rd of the 30 AHL teams in attendance in 2011-12.

Baldwin’s son, Howard Baldwin Jr., was replaced as president of Whaler Sports & Entertainment this spring, and the company also reportedly trimmed its office staff.

The final straw may have been when Reebok contacted the Rangers for assistance, as WSE had failed to pay off a debt owed to them.

"Howard loves this city," Jim Schoenfeld, the Rangers assistant GM and general manager of the Whale, said when Baldwin took over in 2010. "His heart's always been in this city. That's why he's back here. This is his baby."

The Courant could not reach Schoenfeld for comment on the latest developments. AEG Management CT LLC, which manages the XL center, could inherit operation of the Whale.

Jesse Connolly can be reached at jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseNEHJ.