Saskatchewan Should Get First Dibs on NHL Team Before Winnipeg

Jason FriesenContributor IFebruary 26, 2010

I have done some detailed thinking and some research on whether or not the NHL would fly in Saskatoon.

My conclusion: It would most likely thrive more than anything.

Let's get some things out of the way. Saskatchewan thinks big; along with that comes big league.

Just getting some points out to all that don't believe Saskatchewan could support an NHL team (including the many faithless Saskatchewanians who also think Sask. couldn't do it).

Saskatchewan has their junior league hockey teams such as the Regina Pats, Saskatoon Blades, Moose Jaw Warriors, Prince Albert Raiders...the Blades get less attendance than many other junior teams do, and Saskatoon is one of the bigger cities to host the WHL.

Yes, Saskatoon loves their Blades, and they love hockey. The Blades generate about $10 million a year. They sell their tickets on average of just over $15 while getting attendance of around 4,500 to 5,000 people per game. This isn't all that great considering what the outcome could be, especially with a successful team such as the Blades.

I want to get it out of people's heads that the Blades' attendance has absolutely nothing to do with the attendance of what our NHL team would be.

Saskatoon has hosted many different NHL games in the past, all of which sold out except one (they were teams that no one here cared about). This past exhibition season Saskatoon hosted two NHL games back-to-back, and both sold out in 24 hours. Ticket prices were around $90.

Now, we have two "preseason" games along with teams that aren't our home teams sold out in 24 hours with ticket prices that are higher than what most other ticket prices in the NHL are going for. Now imagine regular season games with a team we call our own. Sold out in minutes is my guess.

Now let's look at the economy here. Saskatchewan has the lowest unemployment rate in the country. Saskatchewan has more oil than Alberta, and since the Sask. Party got in, they are now able to start digging. Many oil companies are shifting their businesses to Saskatchewan now. Apparently Alberta will make more money from alcohol and gambling than they will with oil in 2010.

Saskatchewan's population is growing faster than anywhere else in Canada, and the list goes on and on...

Another fact is that the Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon holds 193 more people than the MTS Centre in Winnipeg does (Saskatoon's stadium is bigger than Winnipeg's). To all that think CUC is too small and isn't NHL-caliber, give it up, because Gary Bettman says 15,000 seats is all you need.

Now with some other small facts. I have done some research about Winnipeg. Although I do want Winnipeg to get an NHL team again, let's see which province/city should be first on the list.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders bring in on average just under 30,000 fans per game, whereas the Winnipeg Blue Bombers bring in well under 25,000 fans a game. Now Regina only has around 225,00 people in that city, and Winnipeg has 750,000 people. Something just isn't adding up here.

Is it the fact that Saskatchewanians are more loyal, or do they just have that much more money? Either way, Saskatchewan is able to support their Riders much more than Winnipeg can.

Now saying this, there is a stream of cars coming from Saskatoon to Regina before every game. Some of these cars are also filtering through from North Battleford and P.A. and many other communities around Saskatoon, such as the suburbs Warman and Martensville.

Now after saying this, Regina is not centralized at all in this province. For the most part Regina is a fair distance to drive from most of the populated areas in Saskatchewan. Now if Saskatchewan had an NHL team and Saskatoon hosted the games, we now have a centralized city that is close to most cities. Saskatoon is also a larger city than Regina.

Now just like the Saskatchewan Roughriders get supported by Saskatchewan, our NHL team would get that same support. It wouldn't be called Saskatoon's team; we need the whole province involved, so it should be called Saskatchewan's team. Every game would be filled with the most loyal fans the NHL has ever faced.

A little-known fact is that Saskatchewan sells more sports paraphernalia than anywhere else in Canada. Not only do I think that Saskatchewan is able to have an NHL team, but I think that it's an absurd thought to put an NHL team anywhere before Saskatoon.