Another rendition of Half-Baked Jake ...
December 14, 2005 -- Jeff Jacobs -- Hartford Courant

Circle Jan. 21 in red. No, better yet, circle Jan. 21 in Whalers green and blue. That's the deadline - the Wolf Pack's 20th home game - for the Connecticut Development Authority to exercise its option on the Civic Center agreement with Madison Square Garden. If the CDA elects to terminate, MSG and the Wolf Pack would leave at the end of the current AHL season.

This is a chance for a capital city to define itself. A billion dollars have been poured into a Convention Center, a huge hotel, etc., and what is our big selling point to outsiders? A science center? Casinos an hour away?

How about taking another shot at the major leagues?

Howard Baldwin brought the CDA a proposal nearly a year ago, looking to rebuild the market, reduce CDA expenses and to immediately launch an NHL campaign and a regional TV sports network for Connecticut. The Penguins expect to leave Pittsburgh in 2007 and Kansas City and Houston already are lining up. There are other franchises available. Baldwin would start with the AHL Whalers to prove to the NHL that hockey can draw here, while working with UConn and others on a sports network a la NESN to define our state market. The Connecticut Whalers of the NHL?

Do we dare to dream it for the Civic Center?

The CDA is beginning a study of the future of the arena and you have to wonder what has taken so long. MSG has failed to meet the minimum contractual performance requirements for attendance and revenue. CDA reports show MSG making $1.4 million from the facility in the financial year 2004, while the state lost about $4 million. The state losses have been mounting each year. If the CDA fails to act by Jan. 21, you also would have to wonder. Why would it protect and extend the failed 1997 agreement, assuring millions in continued state losses. Why allow MSG to continue to control the market?