Howard Baldwin accomplished what he set out to do with the Whale Bowl: break the AHL record for ticket sales for a game between the Connecticut Whale and the Providence Whale. 28,000 tickets were sold for Saturday’s historic outdoor hockey game at Rentschler Field, although the actual attendance was just over 15,000. The bitter cold was clearly the factor in the lower count at the gates: the wind chill was hovering around zero as the Brass Bonanza blared over the home of the UConn Huskies. As we prepared to leave our house, Kara suggested we stay home because it was so cold. My response? ”Good try, but we are sitting in an indoor box.”
When we arrived there were tailgaters braving the tundra like winds that whipped across the ‘Rent. It was too cold for families who planned to bring their children to this historic making event, the latest in a long series of steps in an attempt to restore major league sports to Connecticut’s capital city.
Sitting in the front row of one of the boxes taking in the action were two executives from the NHL. Baldwin told me they liked what they saw. They were impressed by the turnout, the excitement of the fans, the venue, and the fireworks and other theatrics before the game. He said Commissioner Gary Bettman wanted to be there, but had an event in Canada he had to attend. Just to be clear, getting a team back in Hartford is still a long way off, but the Whale Bowl and Baldwin have given the NHL folks something to think about.
Celebrities were also on hand including retired greats from the Hartford Whalers and Boston Bruins. Kara and I chatted with actor Neal McDonough for a while. He’s a big hockey fan, loves the Whalers logo and knows Baldwin from his days in Hollywood.
Mr. & Mrs. House, Olessa Stepanova, and Mark Dixon. Strangely, this was Kara’s first hockey game even though she grew up outside Detroit, also called Hockeytown because of Michiganders’ love of the Red Wings
Kara with actor Neal McDonough, known to many viewers as last year’s villain on Desperate Housewives
Former Boston Bruins great Derek Sanderson, whose endorsed autograph appeared on skates I had as a child