When you have the attention of the entire National Hockey League, and are free to pick and choose the jersey you want to wear, several factors must come in to play.
If you happen to be a married family man, you're going to take a look at the schools, crime rate and factors that are most conducive to raising a family.
A single guy on the other hand might be more interested in the night life, golf courses, and other "recreational" activities that a given city may feature. If a player happens to want to play close to the largest ball of twine in the United States, he'll need to find the closest team to Cawker City, Kansas.
There is some dispute as to the world's "true" largest ball of twine. The city of Darwin, Minnesota has tossed their collective hat into the twine-balling ring as the largest. Any coincidence that Zach Parise and Ryan Suter ended up a mere hour and eight minutes from there? Hmmm.
While twine poses a captivating variable when luring free agents to town, there are the factors that are most common when consideration is given. Here are the criteria that I will be using to grade each city.
Tradition: What type of history does each organization have? Is there a "winning" tradition? How often does the team make the playoffs? There are certain expectations going in to each new season based largely on the history, typically recent history, of the franchise.
Fans: Who are the people that will be heaping praise and at times, venom, in your general direction? What sort of socio-economic makeup does the core fan base consist of? What are their expectations of you and of the team? What is their general level of insanity? Do they show up for games or only if someone has an extra ticket?
Arena: Consider this your office. Do you have a corner office with a nice view and a "nice" secretary? What sort of building and facilities will you be using to hone your craft? Is there a risk of asbestos contamination or was the team's new digs built in the last 30 years?
City: Fair or unfair, it's a major factor that has very little to do with the success or failure of a team. The city can directly affect each of the other variables based on the economic climate, real estate, unemployment, crime and growth. While the economy as a whole is not in a great place, certain cities have taken more lumps than others.
Coach: Is this a guy that I want to play for over the course of the next __ years?
Roster: Do I have any help, or am I bringing the Stanley Cup home myself?
I'll rate each area A through F with A being the highest. I'm sure to piss off a fan base or two, or possibly thirty with my take, but the numbers don't lie. So if you want to know why Parise and Suter chose Minnesota over your team here's a few reasons.
Now get started on your own ball of twine, it's not going to roll itself. The 2013 class of free agents should be even better next season.