XL Center (map it)
1 Civic Center Plaza
Hartford, CT 06103
Year Opened: 1975
There are no tickets available at this time.
Official Review by Jim Mancari, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Though Connecticut is not exactly known for its professional sports scene, the state possesses several minor league sports teams that the locals rally around. One of those teams is the Connecticut Whale, who calls the XL Center in Hartford home. For years, Hartford was home to the NHL's Hartford Whalers, but they moved in 1997 to become the Carolina Hurricanes. In a way, the new Whale is a re-creation of the old Whalers.
The XL Center, originally known as the Hartford Civic Center, was built in January 1975, and seats 15,683 fans for hockey games. The arena was renamed in December 2007. In addition to serving as the home of the Whale, the XL Center is a multipurpose venue. The arena consists of a lower bowl, upper level seating, and skyboxes that span the entire stadium's roof. There's a great view from virtually anywhere inside. The arena is run by AEG and thus hosts big-name concerts and shows quite often. Located just 20 minutes from the University of Connecticut, the arena also plays home to a portion of the UCONN men and women's basketball teams' home games.
The Whale became the Whale in November 2010, after coming into existence as the Hartford Wolf Pack in the 1997-98 season. The Whale is the American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate of the New York Rangers. They play in the Northeast division. Many current and former New York Rangers including Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Sean Avery, Darius Kasparaitis, and Marc Savard suited up for the Wolf Pack. The team won its only championship during the 1999-2000 season.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The XL Center offers typical stadium concessions on the main and upper concourses at Hartford Concessions. The arena has two Dunkin Donuts, which are quite rare for stadiums these days. Since many hockey arenas are chilly due to the ice, a hot beverage can be a nice remedy.
The Beers of Connecticut stands, which feature local Connecticut brews, are very popular.
The Comcast Coliseum Club is the restaurant in the arena. Rather than being reserved for only season-ticket holders, anyone with a ticket to a Whale or UCONN game may dine in the club.
The atmosphere in the XL Center is very laid back. It's a big arena for an AHL team, which causes the fans to congregate around center ice on each side. However, since the action in the stands is clustered rather than being so spread put, it allows fans to hear all the sounds of the game. From the stands, you can hear the players communicating on the ice, the sounds of the puck moving from stick to stick, and of course the bone-crushing hits into the boards.
This is actually one of the nice perks of the arena because fans feel like they are constantly part of the action.
The XL Center is situated right in downtown Hartford. If you're driving by the stadium, you might not even realize it's there since it blends in with all the other buildings.
The area is an up-and-coming section of Connecticut with tons of attractions.
Right outside the stadium doors, Allyn Street, Asylum Street, Trumball Street, Pratt Street, and Ann Uccello Street are all booming with restaurants and bars that fill up before and after games.
A fixture in Hartford in the 1970-80s, the Russian Lady - a popular local bar - just reopened and has served the Whale fans well. Coach's Sports Bar and Grille is also a local hotspot.
First off, the AHL isn't quite the NHL. But that hasn't stopped the Whale fans from turning out in full support of their hometown team.
Once again, the arena is large for an AHL team, so it may seem the stadium doesn't fill up. However, the fans that are in house make plenty of noise. Many fans believe they "bleed green." The fans aren't afraid to heckle the opposing players and emphatically "boo" when the visiting team scores a goal. On the flip side, a Whale goal is celebrated excessively.
Most fans sit in the four sections on each side closest to center ice. Like many minor league hockey affiliates, engaging the fans is a major priority. The "Fist Pump Cam" and the "Chuck a Puck" for charity at the second intermission are popular fan activities in Hartford.
The Hartford area is teeming with traffic before games due to rush hour. Most games start at 7 p.m., so getting there on-time means having to leave a significant time before the game. As a result, many fans arrive after the game starts, though this really doesn't apply to the fans that live right in the area.
But the stadium is located right off Interstate 84, so even if fans are traveling, it's an easy ride, barring major traffic.
Parking near the arena is very easy since there are so many lots in the downtown area. If you're lucky, you can find a free spot on the street right outside the arena.
Weekday games cost anywhere from $12-$25 for a center ice ticket, with seats near the glass priced at $44. This is not a bad price tag considering the proximity to the action. Especially if there is no fee to park, a family of four could enjoy a game, with concessions, for about $150.
Mini-plans and group tickets might also be the way to go, depending on how many games or how many people will be attending.
Foam Whale souvenirs are popular among the fans. Also, frequent crowd visits from mascots Pucky the Whale and Sonar the Wolf further add the family experience of these games. These mascots help Whale fans "Catch the Wave," the team's slogan.
A cool feature of the stadium is a banner located on the main concourse in which the Whale thank its season-ticket holders. All season-ticket holders have signed the banner.
Especially as a New York Ranger fan, taking a trip to see the Connecticut Whale not only allows fans to see the team's future talent, but it also allows them to experience hockey in another region of the Northeast.
Though diehard hockey fans miss their Hartford Whalers, the Whale certainly fills the hockey void for these fans.
Overall, the XL Center is a hidden gem of Connecticut.
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