Face the State Flashback: Patriots Announce Move to Hartford

Connecticut was an interesting case study in fan loyalty this past Super Bowl.   The New York Giants certainly have their fair share of fans in our state, even if many can’t remember the two seasons the team played at the Yale Bowl in the early 1970s.  Up until the mid 90s, Channel 3 carried NFC games and we were known as the “Giants” station, which helped the Giants build a fan base here.

Being that this is New England, the Patriots also have a  number of fans across Connecticut, but there is also a decent block of people who could never root for the team because of what happened 13 years ago.   Some Patriots fans even became Giants or Jets fans because they felt misled and mistreated.

It was almost unbelievable when it was first announced in the fall of 1998:  the New England Patriots were thinking of moving to Hartford.    Sure, there had been flirtations with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers https://dennishouse.tv/2013/01/31/flashback-another-team-flirts-with-connecticut-the-hartford-buccaneers/ and Los Angeles Rams https://dennishouse.tv/2011/10/27/flashback-the-connecticut-rams/ but this was serious.   Coming just over a year after the Hartford Whalers skated out of town, leaving us a minor league state, people embraced a Patriots move without hesitation and with open arms.

It was a big deal and a big story and we all know how it ended.    The sad chapter was talked about quite a bit during the recent buildup to the Super Bowl.   Most people were grumbling  that they believe Patriots owner Robert Kraft was less than honest and strung Connecticut taxpayers along, never intending to move the team here, even though the state legislature and then Governor John  Rowland offered the team the deal of a lifetime.    Some blame the state, arguing Kraft was able to kill the deal because the state announced construction of a new stadium would be  delayed.

In this week’s Face the State Flashback, we take you back to December 14, 1998, when Eyewitness News brought you a Patriots special, titled “A Conversation with the Krafts.”     In it you’ll see Jeffrey Cole, the former moderator of Face the State now reporting in Philadelphia,  Joe Tessitore, now with ESPN, and Eric Clemons, now with CTN.   Along with me, we interviewed Robert Kraft and son Jonathan, and you’ll hear them talk about moving the team to Hartford.

As you watch the interview below, let me know what you think the Krafts were thinking.

Thirteen years later the legacy of the Patriots debacle still hangs over Connecticut.     Hartford never again was pursued by an NFL team, and no doubt Kraft would block any attempt by any possible suitor.     The collapse of the Patriots deal has also inhibited lawmakers and business leaders from making an all out effort to restore a major league sports team to the capital city.   No one wants to get burned again, even if we are the biggest television market in the country without a professional team.     Within a two year period, Connecticut twice showed its commitment to big league sports, with a big season ticket drive to save the Whalers in 1997, and again with the Patriots a year later.    So many people signed up for season tickets for there was actually a waiting list.    Despite those efforts and impressive shows of support, fans were left empty-handed.

You can watch the entire Flashback right here:

20 replies »

  1. Kind of glad now they didn’t make the move. My rent would likely be a lot higher being that close to a major league stadium.


  2. I use to be a supporter of both the Giants and patriots, but after what Kraft did I strictly became a Giants fan. Payback is you know what! It’s such pleasure to watch the Giants once again spank the Patriots in the Super Bowl.GO GIANTS!!!! Screw you Kraft and your losing Patriots!!!!


  3. I grew up in Boston where I was a Pats fan even though most people didn’t care about the Patriots because they were never good. Then I became angry at Bob Kraft when he started shopping the team around to other cities. I thought he was a disloyal guy for abandoning Massachusetts. Then I was transferred to Connecticut and Kraft announced they were moving to Hartford and I signed up for the season tickets only to have him say they weren’t coming because suddenly Massachusetts showed him a little love. He’s an opportunist and I have never regretted my decision to become a Giants fan. As good a team as the Patriots have become, I can’t get beyond the fact they are owned by someone so unscrupulous.


  4. I was working at the State House in Boston during this whole thing. From go, everyone there openly discussed that Kraft had no intention of leaving, that the proposed move to Hartford was just a poorly veiled negotiation tactic. The other part that bothered me was that from the beginning the folks in Boston (in a stereotypically accurate “Hub of the Universe” move) mocked the Connecticut folks as a bunch of rubes for seriously believing that a Boston team would ever go to silly little Hartford. And then, you know, the Patriots didn’t come.


  5. Kraft never had any intention of moving the team to Ct. he had an agenda and he figured if he acted like the team was leaving Mass. he would get what he wanted a new stadium and he did. I also blame that crook Rowland for falling for Kraft’s act and playing right into it. I don’t lke the Patriots and I never did, I’m glad the giants beat them in super bowls TWICE! Kraft is not a good person!


  6. Denis I was at the rally at the Hartford Civic Center as it was then known back in 1999.The same year I had a kidney Transplant.I was so happy they were coming to Connecticut.Robert Kraft should pay back all the money he got from the state.


  7. The signing happened at the Old State House, Hartford, in the Senate Chamber. The pre signing was full of tension, and they used my office (I was then the executive director) – door opening, closing, opening . . .At the ceremony Gov. Rowland used several pens to sign J o h n etc. He then turned to Mr Kraft and handed him the pens to distribute to those behind him ( Lt. Rell, Senate President Sullivan, etc.) Kraft took the first pen and put it in his pocket. He then looks to his left and right and put all the rest of the pens in his other pocket. Mrs. Rowland turned to me and said “He already has all our money, so why does he need tio pocket all the pens? I replied “It doesn’t bode well.”
    Wilson H. Faude


  8. What is interesting about the debate is the fact that so many people were too clouded from their sports emotions to see what the situation was, a well Krafted negotiation move. It was nothing more, nothing less. People took this far too personal when it was all business.

    There are so many points that didn’t make the Patriots move to Hartford make any sense and you can throw them all away and rest on one, yes one reason why it was never going to happen. Infrastructure Period.

    The infrastructure as it existed couldn’t handle the traffic count that would be necessary to support the numbers being touted – it just wasn’t going to happen, because you could never get it to add up. The legal battles that would have had to play out to acquire the vast numbers of privately owned properties to get a system, whether new or completely revamped form what existed would have been insurmountable to make the deal WORK.

    Kraft scored a touch down in negotiating to get what he wanted with as little outlay from his side he should be commended for that. In the business sense hats off to him, and to anyone who is still crying about it I’ll take my hats off to you and keep scratching my head wondering why, why you are all still stuck in yesterday.

    That’s part of the big problem with the stagnation of Hartford – it’s still stuck in yesterday and as long as it continues to be yesterday will be the biggest blocker stopping Hartford from scoring a touch down.


  9. Dennis, I actually have season tickets now as a result of signing up to be on the waiting list for the relocation to CT. The crazy thing about it, I am and always have been a Giants fan. I have attended 2 games in 4 years and donate most of the tickets to charity events and clients.

    Bob Kraft is a businessman, and at the end of the day, professional sports is one of our country’s biggest businessess. While I don’t like how he used Hartford for leverage, it is hard to blame him completely for his tactics. He ultimately got the state of Mass. to concede everything he asked for, so it is hard to challenge his business accumen.


  10. When this news came out I laughed. There was NO WAY Kraft was moving from a Boston Market to Hartford. People actually thought this was legit. Kraft was playing chicken with Massachusetts in order to get his stadium built and it worked while Connecticut spent all this money on a pipe dream.


  11. WOW!!!! I’m a capitalist, but damn I amazed at all the people defending karft’s shady actions. I’m actually glad kraft screwed Massachusetts out of money for a new stadium. I will never ever support a Boston team ever. Yankees and Giants BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  12. Krafty bob is a bum. He proved it then and he continues to show what kind of rotten person he is, what with his UNQUESTIONABLE knowledge of Spygate and the buying off of the League since 2007. Why even his poor wife Myra was barely cold in the grave before he took up with some young chippy and Starred in some ridiculous amateur video to further her career as an aspiring actress. He is the personification of TRASH!


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