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Wolf Pack announce change to business operations

Hartford Hockey LLC, a Hartford-based sports marketing and event firm founded by Howard Baldwin, has signed a multi-year agreement to take control of the business operations of the Hartford Wolf Pack, the New York Rangers’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate.

The deal was jointly announced on Monday in Hartford by Howard Baldwin, chairman and CEO of Hartford Hockey, Glen Sather, president and general manager of the New York Rangers, and Chuck Steedman, senior vice president and general manager of the AEG Management Connecticut LLC, which manages the XL Center.

Under the terms of the agreement, Baldwin’s Hartford Hockey LLC will be responsible for the day-to-day business operations of the Wolf Pack, including marketing, community relations, sponsorship and ticket sales, while Madison Square Garden and the Rangers will retain ownership of the Wolf Pack and continue to be responsible for all hockey related decisions, including coaching and player movement.

AEG continues to manage the XL Center and will partner with Baldwin’s group on a number of mutual marketing initiatives.

“We are proud to be associated with two great partners like MSG and AEG,” said Baldwin.

“The Hartford Wolf Pack produced the AHL’s top cumulative record over the past 13 years and with Glen Sather, Jim Schoenfeld and Ken Gernander at the helm we look forward to another strong season in 2010-2011 and a great relationship for years to come.”

“Hartford hockey fans have been treated to a winning brand of entertaining hockey in a first class facility over the past 13 seasons, by a Wolf Pack team that produced numerous future NHL players.”

“It is also a great privilege to be partnered with Chuck Steedman, Bob Newman and the entire AEG team,” Baldwin said. “I know they are as committed to the city of Hartford as much as we are and we look forward to working closely with them to make this partnership a success.”

Steedman commented:

“AEG and the XL Center are excited to work closely with Howard and his staff in starting a new era for Hartford’s AHL franchise, and we are committed to doing everything possible to facilitate all the exciting things that he has planned. We are proud of the Wolf Pack’s success, and appreciative of the Rangers’ and MSG’s excellent partnership, and as operators of the XL Center, we will continue to take great pride in helping to maintain the franchise’s status as one of the premier operations in the AHL.”

Baldwin’s group will retain the Wolf Pack name until the team is re-named the “Connecticut Whale” at a yet-to-be-determined time during the 2010-2011 season.

Baldwin explained the process of naming the team, the “Whale.”

“We wanted a name that reflected a fresh start and new look for this new era of Hartford hockey while still commemorating our rich hockey tradition,” he explained. “The Hartford Whalers have always been affectionately referred to as ‘The Whale’, so it’s a very familiar reference for Hartford hockey fans.

“With the name ‘Whale’ we will begin our own new tradition.“

Baldwin also explained why the team is referred to as the “Connecticut” Whale.

“While we are proud to call Hartford our home”, he said, “we have chosen ‘Connecticut’ for our team name as it symbolizes our commitment to broaden our fan base beyond Hartford County.”

Baldwin noted that many of his marketing plans will be announced in the days ahead

He continued his remarks with a “call to action” for Hartford’s hockey fans.

“I’d like to sincerely thank the Hartford Wolf Pack and their loyal fans for supporting hockey these past 13 years,” he said. “We will always commemorate the significant accomplishments of the Wolf Pack franchise. I also want to express my enormous gratitude to the Whaler fans and their booster club for keeping the Whaler name and the passion for them alive during these 13 years.

“Now is the time for both groups to come together and do what is best for hockey in Hartford. A Wolf Pack fan is a hockey fan – and a Whaler fan is a hockey fan. It is my fervent hope that everyone becomes a fan of the Whale.”

Baldwin concluded with a look toward Hartford’s future:

“This is not just about selling tickets to hockey games”, he stated. “This is about bringing downtown Hartford ‘back’ to the vibrant and exciting place that it was in the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s when the XL Center (then Civic Center) was the entertainment hub of Hartford.

“I know that together we can do it – and have a lot of fun in the process.”

The Wolf Pack season opens on October 9 with a game vs. new AHL members the Charlotte Checkers at the XL Center, followed by an October 10 match vs. the visiting Worcester Sharks.