In an interesting twist involving the future of the New York Islanders, the city of Hartford, formerly the home of the NHL’s Whalers, has offered the team the use of the XL Center as an “interim” home, according to local news station WFSB. Hartford has been without the NHL since 1997 when the Whalers left town and became the Carolina Hurricanes.
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin sent a letter to Jonathan Ledecky, Scott Malkin and Charles Wang, the Islanders ownership group, and made a compelling pitch to lure the Isles to the state. As part of their argument, Malloy and Bronin mention in the letter that Connecticut is home to more Fortune 500 companies than several existing NHL markets, including: Columbus, Raleigh, Buffalo and Nashville. Additionally, Malloy and Bronin discuss the ongoing renovations to the XL Center, including the installation of a new ice surface and dasher boards. A copy of the letter can be found here.
It’s believed the Islanders are already exploring their options as it appears the team may exercise an opt-out in their Barclay’s Center lease following the 2017-18 campaign. Even if the Islanders choose to remain, the Barclay’s Center is expected to exercise their end of the opt-out after the 2018-19 season.
While Connecticut is amenable to providing a short-term home for the Islanders, the letter also states a willingness to work with the team to become a long-term option.
Ultimately, the Islanders are unlikely to take Connecticut up on their offer. The team’s owners have indicated their desire to remain in the New York market and a move to Hartford would probably not get the backing of Gary Bettman and the league’s other owners. But, with renovations to XL Center underway, Hartford could join Quebec City as a potential expansion or relocation candidate in the future.