November 30, 2011

Whale Watching ... in Downtown Hartford

This is what a midprice ticket will get you:
Pretty awesome seats.
(We were in the sixth row.)
Winter's settling in. Even if you aren't a fan of sledding, building snowmen, or braving New England's freezing temperatures to ski or snowboard, all is not lost.

Whether you've got a family to entertain on the cheap or are just looking for a fun night out with a couple of friends, perhaps it's time to check out the Connecticut Whale.

I'm talking about hockey here for those of you not familiar with the Whale. Not NHL, of course, but still the very worthy American Hockey League, where the top Whale players still score six- and seven-figure annual salaries.

The best part is, you won't have to go broke buying tickets. They run about $12 apiece for kids (ages 2-16) and between $12 and $25 per adult. And this is for very decent seats. (Good luck finding prices under $100 apiece - even in the nosebleed section -  for any Boston Bruins game.)

Not a sports fan? Well, me neither, technically. I assure you, the Connecticut Whale's got something for everyone.

Today's Stefcations Highlights:
  • What You'll Find: A fun, inexpensive night out, no matter who you are - sports fan or no, child or adult
  • Where You'll Find it: The XL Center in Hartford, Conn.
  • When to Go: All winter long (through April 2012)
  • Cost: Usually around $12 a ticket for kids, ages 2-16; $12-$25 per adult, depending on the game (and you won't be in nosebleed)

Wee hockey fans
getting into the action.
For the men, there's beer (try the Whaler Ale) and hockey - plus the occasional fistfight if you're up for that sort of thing.

For the ladies, there's beer, there's hockey, there are those delectable soft pretzels covered in salt, and, well, there's ogling the hockey players themselves. Ahem... 

And for the kids, the Whale's always got a giveaway of some sort - whether it's a lunchbox, a towel to wave around overhead at the game, or those funky plastic doohickeys that you inflate and bang together to make noise (which, admittedly, are kinda fun).

Who doesn't love a bouncy house?
Not to mention the bouncy house, where you can have your children burn off some of that extra energy before the game. They may be able to snag a ride on the Zamboni, too, or catch a T-shirt thrown from the ice by none other than Pucky the Whale, the Connecticut Whale's mascot. (Before you make fun of Pucky, keep in mind that the dude in that costume can ice-skate and chuck T-shirts into the crowd whilst wearing that giant whale head. That's some skills, people. Have some respect.) 

Or, perhaps your kids'll be lucky enough to be caught on camera and see themselves on the Jumbotron, perfecting their fist pump or dancing around to the old Whalers' theme song.

To top it all off, it's not an agonizingly long night out. Three periods, 20 minutes each, with the possible added excitement of some OT. No need to sit through nine long innings in these parts. Any way you slice it, kids are going to enjoy themselves - and they're not going to forget it. I can attest to my own fond memories from back in the day, seeing the Hartford Whalers play at the same venue, then known as the Civic Center.

It's a pretty good time, no matter who you are. And the irony is that I kinda don't care about sports. I suppose it's somewhat shameful - perhaps even more so having graduated from UConn, where not caring about basketball is straight-up blasphemy.

a hockey game staple.
I totally enjoy watching tennis on TV (though, in truth, I only really tune in to see the major matches). I'll happily attend Superbowl parties (because of the delicious food, duh). I played a bit of volleyball in high school. And oh yeah, I met Olympic speed skater Apolo Ohno the other day (does that count?).

But that's really about it. As a kid, the only sport I really remember experiencing in the flesh was hockey. And having married a lifelong Boston Bruins fan - and seeing them win the Stanley Cup last year - it's obviously continued to be a part of my life.

All in all, it's an easy way to beat the winter doldrums without breaking the bank.

Me and my crazy whaling friends.


  1. Where do you find *what* the give aways are? My daughter would like to take a road trp to Hartford to watch #55 Andreas Thuresson play...if I could combine the trip with a fun give away like the lunchbox it would be a win-win trip. Thanks.

  2. Hi Pat - I can't say that I necessarily have ever seen the Whale advertise their giveaways ahead of time. But I'm sure that whatever they have will just add to the fun! :D