Sports in New Haven, Connecticut

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Walter Camp, New Haven resident and father of American football.

New Haven, Connecticut has a rich history of sports and athletics at the amateur, collegiate, and professional levels. Below is a history of some of the teams the city has hosted, as well as significant sporting events that have taken place in New Haven.

Hockey[edit]

Logo of the New Haven Nighthawks, New Haven's hockey team from 1972 to 1992.

Much like other mid-sized Northeastern industrial cities, New Haven has historically supported its minor league hockey teams enthusiastically, having had a hockey team for 76 years. The New Haven Eagles were founding members of the American Hockey League in 1936, playing at the old New Haven Arena on Grove Street. The New Haven Blades of the Eastern Hockey League played from 1954 to 1972 before being succeeded by the New Haven Nighthawks of the AHL, which played at the then-new New Haven Coliseum.

The Nighthawks were replaced by the short-lived Senators in 1993. After a hiatus, hockey returned in 1997, with the Beast of New Haven. Playing in a newly refurbished Coliseum, this team lasted only two seasons, ending AHL hockey in New Haven. The New Haven Knights of the United Hockey League then took up residence in the Coliseum, playing there until the Coliseum closed in 2002.

After, the Coliseum was closed (thus ending any chance of minor league hockey returning to New Haven), fans' allegiances shifted to the United Hockey League's Danbury Trashers, owned by James Galante, who attempted to purchase and save the New Haven Coliseum and the New Haven Knights. The Trashers have since been disbanded and Galante is currently incarcerated for alleged mob ties. The AHL's Sound Tigers, which play in Bridgeport, provide minor league hockey for the area.

New Haven had been known for its blue collar fans who favor rough play, especially the "Crazies" who sat in "The Jungle" — Section 14 at the Coliseum, behind and adjacent to the opposing team's bench. These fans were renowned for being extremely tough on opposing teams, relentlessly screaming obscenities and taunts at opposing players (and sometimes at hometown players), making New Haven an intimidating place to play even though outright physical violence in the stands was rare. Section 14ers maintain a website called "Section 14 Online" which can be found at Section14.com.[1]

The Yale Bulldogs men's and women's hockey teams, which play at Ingalls Rink, and the Quinnipiac Bobcats men's and women's hockey teams, which play at TD Bank Sports Center to the north of New Haven in Hamden, both compete in ECAC Division I Hockey.

The NHL's Hartford Whalers played some preseason games in New Haven during their last few years in Connecticut in an effort to gain support in Greater New Haven.

Baseball[edit]

Yale Field has hosted several minor league baseball teams

New Haven's first professional baseball team was the New Haven Elm Citys of the National Association, which played for one season in 1875 at the Howard Avenue Grounds. Although the National Association's status as a major league is disputed (particularly by Major League Baseball and the Baseball Hall of Fame), some historians and statisticians consider the NA a major league, making the Elm Citys New Haven's only major league baseball franchise.[2][3]

New Haven has hosted 29 minor league baseball teams, dating back to the 19th century[4](A complete list of New Haven base ball teams can be found here). Greater New Haven's first minor league baseball team in modern times were the West Haven Yankees of the Class AA Eastern League, which played at both Quigley Stadium and Yale Field in neighboring West Haven from 1972 to 1979. Many future New York Yankees made their way though the West Haven team, including Ron Guidry.[5] The West Haven Yankees finished first five times in their eight years, winning the Eastern League championship four times (in '72, '76, '78, and '79).

In 1980, the New York Yankees moved their farm team elsewhere and the Oakland A's fielded a team for three years in West Haven. Known as the Whitecaps for their first year and the West Haven A's for their last two, the A's brought home a championship to Greater New Haven in 1982, before the team moved to Albany the following year.

Minor league baseball returned to New Haven in 1994 with the arrival of the New Haven Ravens, an Eastern League AA affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. Like the preceding minor league teams, the Ravens played in neighboring West Haven at Yale Field, just across the town line. Playing at Yale Field, which was renovated for the team, the team was very successful in its first few seasons before losing support. New Haven and the Ravens hosted the Double-A All-Star game in 1998.[6] The Ravens won the Eastern League championship in 2000, giving New Haven proper its first professional championship since the New Haven Blades' championship in 1956. The Ravens moved to Manchester, New Hampshire in 2003, becoming the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

Following the Ravens' departure, the New Haven County Cutters baseball team began play at Yale Field in 2004, in the independent Northeast (now Can-Am) League. The Cutters suspended operation after the 2007 season, and New Haven has been without minor league baseball since.

In 1974, a little league team from New Haven placed sixth in the Little League World Series.[7]

Football[edit]

Yale Bowl during "The Game" in 2001.

New Haven and Yale Bowl were the home of the New York Giants of the National Football League for the 1973 and 1974 NFL seasons, while Giants Stadium was under construction. The Giants had previously played in New Haven at the Bowl in 1956, for an exhibition game against the Baltimore Colts—the first time professional football was played in the city. The New York Jets played exhibition games in the Bowl throughout the 1970s.

New Haven was without professional football again until 2002, when it became home to an af2 minor-league arena football franchise called the New Haven Ninjas, who played at the New Haven Coliseum. The Ninjas were successful but were forced to leave when the Coliseum was closed the following year.

With a capacity of 64,269, Yale Bowl is the second-largest stadium in New England (after Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts).[8] Home to the Yale Bulldogs football team, the neogothic stadium is the biannual host of "The Game" between rivals Yale and Harvard. Yale Bowl was made a National Historic Landmark in 1987 and received an extensive renovation in 2007.

Basketball[edit]

New Haven has hosted a couple of minor league basketball teams. The city briefly was the home of an American Basketball League team named the New Haven Jewels in 1937, before the team moved to New York. New Haven gained an Eastern Professional Basketball League (the forerunner to the Continental Basketball Association) team in 1965, named the New Haven Elms, which played in New Haven Arena. In 1967, the Elms left New Haven, and split their season in Bridgeport and Binghamton, as the "Flyers." For the 1968-69 season, the team returned to New Haven, again calling itself the Elms. However, under the sponsorship of the Bic Pen Corporation of Milford, CT, the team moved north to Hamden the following season, now calling itself the Hamden Bics. The Bics played in the gym of Hamden High School for two seasons, before folding in 1971.[9][10][11]

Division I college basketball is represented in Greater New Haven by the Yale Bulldogs, who play at the Gothic Payne Whitney Gym, and the Quinnipiac Bobcats, who play at the TD Bank Sports Center in Hamden.

Soccer[edit]

Greater New Haven's oldest professional soccer team was the Ansonia F.C.. which is believed to have begun play in 1887 before dissolving in the 1920s.[12] New Haven was the home of the Connecticut Bicentennials of the North American Soccer League in 1976 and 1977, which played at Yale Bowl. The Hartford Hellions of the Major Indoor Soccer League played at the New Haven Coliseum during their inaugural season in 1979.

The Yale Bulldogs and Quinnipiac Bobcats provide Division I college soccer for Greater New Haven.

Other[edit]

The New Haven Road Race has hosted the USA 20K Championship every year since its inception in 1978.[13] The race, which featured 1,200 runners in its inaugural year, has grown to include as many as 7,000 participants.[14] Other annual road races which take place in New Haven include the WPLR ShamRock & Roll 5K, held close to Saint Patrick's Day every March,[15] and The Christopher Martins Christmas Run for Children 5K, held every December.[16]

New Haven is home to both rugby union and rugby league teams, the New Haven Old Black RFC and the New Haven Warriors, respectively. Both teams play at 'The Boulevard" on Route 34. The rugby union team won the US DII National title in 2002. The last few years they have regularly qualified for the Sweet 16 in DI national championships. The rugby league team plays in the top level championship of the USA. They are the reigning 2008 champions.

New Haven has a very large cycling community, represented by the advocacy and community group ElmCityCycling.[17] Group rides are held several times per week.

There are two golf courses open to the public located within New Haven proper: the The Course at Yale and Alling Memorial Golf Course. Dozens more are located in Greater New Haven and the New Haven metropolitan area; a list can be seen here.

Tournaments and championships hosted[edit]

The Pilot Pen Tennis logo.

The Connecticut Tennis Center hosts the Pilot Pen International, a professional men's and women's tennis event, every August. Recent winners have included the likes of tennis stars Lindsay Davenport, Venus Williams, and Steffi Graf. The 15,000 seat Tennis Center Stadium at the Connecticut Tennis Center is tied as the fourth largest tennis venue in the world by capacity.[18]

On March 20, 1914, the first United States Figure Skating Championships were held in New Haven. The city also hosted the event in 1923, 1928, 1933, and 1935.

From July 1–9, 1995, New Haven hosted the 1995 Special Olympics World Summer Games. Then-President Bill Clinton spoke at the Opening Ceremonies at Yale Bowl.[19]

References[edit]