Established back in 1997, the Hartford Wolf Pack is the premiere player-development affiliate of the NHL’s New York Rangers. The Wolf Pack is the former Binghamton Rangers franchise and was moved to Hartford when they were bought by Madison Square Garden Corporation (MSG), the then management firm of the former Civic Center. The team brought Hartford its first ever pro-sports championship in the 1999-2000 season with a win over the Rochester Americans for the Calder Cup title. The Wolf Pack was consistent in achieving post season play, making the Calder Cup playoffs 12 times in 12 seasons, the longest active streak of consecutive playoff appearances in the AHL.
The 2009-2010 season marked the end of the first era of the Wolf Pack name. The team was re-branded as the Connecticut Whale in November of 2010 in front of a crowd of 13,089, the second largest XL Center assembly in team history. The team’s business operations were assumed by Whalers Sports & Entertainment, a group led by businessman, Howard Baldwin. Baldwin was responsible for bringing the first professional hockey team, the Hartford Whalers to the City back in the 1970s. A highlight of the first season as the Whale was the “Whale Bowl”, the second largest outdoor hockey game in the history of the AHL, played at East Hartford’s Rentschler Field. The event was the centerpiece of a two-week outdoor hockey festival that attracted 21,673 fans, which at the time, was the largest single AHL game attendance ever.
The end of the 2011-2013 season saw the end of the Whalers Sports & Entertainment entity, but AEG Management Connecticut, who succeeded MSG as management of the XL Center and handled the original Wolf Pack’s business operations from 2007-2010, once again assumed oversight of the team’s business in July of 2012. That brought the management of the team and the XL Center back under the same umbrella with the team remaining part of the Rangers hockey operation as they had throughout the history of the franchise. The 2012-2013 season was the last of three under the Whale name. The next season saw more transition for the team when Global Spectrum took control of the XL Center and along with it, the business operation of the hockey club. MSG and Spectra, formerly Global Spectrum, reinstated the team’s Wolf Pack moniker that defined it for the first 13 years of its existence in Hartford.