Howard Baldwin…A leader in the formation of the World Hockey Association (WHA)…one of the architects of the historic NHL-WHA merger…A force behind two of the most comprehensive and successful community relations programs in professional sports…A true Connecticut innovator…And a successful movie producer.
Mr. Baldwin began his career in professional hockey with the Philadelphia Flyers organization as Business Manager of the club’s minor league Jersey Devils affiliate in 1967. By the 1968 season Baldwin was promoted to the Philadelphia Flyers as Ticket Manager and Sales and Promotion Manager.
At 28 years old, Mr. Baldwin became one of major professional sports’ youngest executives when he became a founder and partner of the World Hockey Association’s Boston-based New England Whalers in 1971. Five years later, he was president of the league.
When Mr. Baldwin determined that the team needed its own building, he moved the Whalers in 1974 from Boston to Hartford’s new Civic Center Coliseum as a vehicle for revitalization of downtown Hartford.
In 1979, Mr. Baldwin guided the WHA into an historic merger with the National Hockey League. “Howard is a doer,” according to former NHL President John Ziegler, “We would have never put that merger together in 1979 had it not been for Howard’s perseverance and his capacity to work with people,” Ziegler said. “He was a very big part of NHL history.”
Mr. Baldwin served as the Whalers Managing General Partner until the team was sold to local ownership in 1988 for the then largest team sales price in NHL history. In the three years prior to the sale, the Whalers drew record crowds and enjoyed tremendous financial success.
At the Whalers, Mr. Baldwin was the driving force behind an award-winning community relations program that was second to none in professional sports. He established the Whalers Foundation for Giving and a Whalers Teaching Chair in Pediatric Oncology at the University of Connecticut Health Center—a $500,000 gift.
Recognizing a void in regional sports programming in the northeast, Mr. Baldwin formed PRISM New England Cable TV (subsequently SportsChannel) with the Boston Celtics for the purpose of promoting Whalers hockey in the New England market.
A highly respected member of the NHL Board of Governors, Mr. Baldwin served on many key committees including, advisory, finance, “forward planning,” and pension. He was also a leader in ending the NHL strike in March of 1992.
Two years after the sale of the Whalers to real estate executive Richard Gordon, Mr. Baldwin created the expansion franchise in San Jose, California and negotiated a lease with the new San Jose arena; then, through a very complex transaction, he exchanged his position in the San Jose Sharks with George and Gordon Gund and acquired controlling interest in the Minnesota North Stars, later selling his interest in the Minnesota franchise to the former minority owner of the Calgary Flames, Norm Green.
In November 1991 Howard Baldwin, Morris Belzberg and Thomas Ruta purchased the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins. Mr. Baldwin served as the Penguins Chairman of the Board and represented the club on the NHL Board of Governors. Under his direction the Penguins won the Stanley Cup, two Patrick Division regular season titles and the President’s Trophy. Mr. Baldwin sold his managing interest in the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1998.
Mr. Baldwin was the first American sports entrepreneur to break through the Iron Curtain and become 50% partner with the Russian government in ownership of the famous CCCP Red Army team in Moscow.
Today, Howard Baldwin serves as the Chairman and CEO of Whalers Sports & Entertainment, a Hartford-based marketing company which successfully negotiated to take creative control of the Hartford Wolf Pack, AHL affiliate of the New York Rangers. Mr. Baldwin oversaw the successful rebranding of the franchise, transitioning the Wolf Pack into the Connecticut Whale with the long-term goal of revitalizing the hockey market in Hartford with an eye to the NHL.
Howard Baldwin and his wife, Karen, who works closely with him on all major projects, currently reside in West Hartford, Connecticut. He has three children and seven grandchildren.