When Patriots Owner Robert Kraft Almost Moved the Team to Connecticut
Robert Kraft got married over the weekend in New York City. The ceremony drew a number of beloved current and former Patriots. Even the ever-elusive Tom Brady made time for his former employer’s big day.
But had things gone a bit differently during Kraft’s early days as owner of the Patriots, such an event would have had people in these parts feeling, well, deflated.
A lifelong Patriots fan, Kraft purchased the team in 1994 in order to block its previous owner from moving the team to St. Louis (the very city Kraft & co. would go on to beat for the team’s first Super Bowl win to cap off Brady’s improbably heroic 2001 season).
It was a feel-good story, but the same issue plagued Kraft that had plagued previous Patriots’ owners: the albatross that was Foxboro Stadium. Others had tried and failed to upgrade the team’s stadium, and Kraft even thought he had a deal in South Boston. But when that fell apart, the Massachusetts native was forced to turn elsewhere.
That’s right: the Patriots were this close to calling Hartford, Connecticut, their new home.
In fact, Kraft even appeared at a press conference with the Governor of Connecticut to announce the big move. The deal was done, they said, and as Connecticut is technically New England, the team wouldn’t even have to change its name.
But…the Freedom Trail is located in Massachusetts, not Connecticut. So, for a team called the Patriots, it just wasn’t the same, and judging by Kraft’s bittersweet body language at his Hartford press conference, he felt the same way.
In Connecticut, things began to drag out. While up in Massachusetts, fences were mended, and soon, ground was broken. Kraft did an about-face, and decided to bet on himself, using his own money to start construction on Gillette Stadium.
It was a double whammy for Hartford, which had lost two major pro sports teams in just a few short years. There would be no celebratory Almond Joys in Connecticut that day.
I thought this was the only recent instance when a Massachusetts sports team almost moved, so imagine my surprise when I learned that in the early '80s, the Bruins and Celtics also considered moving to another New England state.