The doors to the Hartford Civic Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum and Exhibition Center opened on January 9, 1975, with Glen Campbell kicking off the start of an event-filled weekend. The following evening, Johnny Mathis and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra took to the stage. Professional hockey in Hartford began as the New England Whalers played their first game at the Hartford Civic Center , hosting the San Diego Mariners. Since then, the Civic Center has remained Connecticut ’s home for premier sports and entertainment.
Unfortunately, after three years of providing top family fun and entertainment, the Civic Center had to be closed. On the evening of January 18, 1978, just hours after the University of Connecticut Men ’s Basketball team defeated the University of Massachusetts ; the weight of snow from the day’s heavy snowstorm was too much for the Civic Center roof to withstand and forced it to collapse. Fortunately, there were no injuries. Nearly two years later to the day, on February 6, 1980, the new Hartford Whalers, now of the NHL, reopened the doors with a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Once again, it was the start of something great in Hartford .
Through the years, the Beach Boys, Diana Ross, the Grateful Dead, Luciano Pavarotti, James Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Tina Turner, and countless other top-tier artists, filled the Civic Center with guests of all ages.
Although 1997 brought about the end of the Whalers in Hartford , it was also a new beginning – the new American Hockey League affiliate of the New York Rangers was about to make Hartford its new home. In August of 1997, the Rangers purchased their Binghamton development team and moved the squad to Connecticut . The Hartford Wolf Pack kicked off a new era of Hockey in Hartford . In 2007, the management of the Hartford Civic Center was taken over by Northland AEG. In 2007, Northland AEG struck a deal with the XL Insurance for the naming rights to the building, changing the Hartford Civic Center name to XL Center.
Along with the Wolf Pack, the XL Center continues to be the home away from home for both the University of Connecticut Men and Women’s basketball programs. The Huskies have grown into a perennial powerhouse, playing in front of sold out crowds and winning National Championships. In addition to the resident teams, the XL Center has entertained millions of visitors annually with a variety of concerts, family shows, ice-skating spectaculars, consumer events and trade shows throughout the season. The XL Center is has been the proud host of the Big East Conference Women’s Basketball Championship for the past five years and has extended the contract until 2011. The XL Center will continue to be the center sports and entertainment for Hartford and the state of Connecticut for years to come.