Has Winnipeg Done Enough To Secure an NHL Team? Quebec Has a Rally, Jets Nothing

Joe M.Correspondent IIOctober 18, 2010

Future Winnipeg Jets? Let's hope so
Future Winnipeg Jets? Let's hope soHarry How/Getty Images

You might have heard that a little over two weeks ago, the fans of a would-be team in Quebec City, Quebec had a massive rally on the Plains of Abraham that drew anywhere between 50,000-100,000 supporters.


Uh, there have been surveys sent out to potential fans, asking them how much they would pay for a ticket and how often. They've also tried to access the long-term viability in supporting a franchise in Manitoba, beyond the initial and inevitable two-year surge; but other than that, they've had no such public rally of support to make their case to the NHL.

While these are certainly necessary prerequisites, where is the massive rally? Where is the public show of support? I can be just as supportive on a computer keyboard as many of these so-called "fans" out there. It's easy to comment when it's not your money.

Sure, there will be those that will say "We drew 14,000+ for the NHL exhibition game with the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning."

I say, big deal. It's been done that before and it didn't work. What's more, 14,000+ at the MTS Centre would rank exactly at the bottom of the NHL attendance rankings.

Yes, I know even if you joined the league tomorrow, MTS Centre would still rank last in the league in terms of capacity, and unlike some "fans" from "English Canada," that's fine. At least it's hockey back where it should be, my only complaint is not to use this notion as proof you want a team, since its the least you can do.

Quebec has hosted a few exhibition games at the 61-year-old Colisee to sellout crowds for years. When the Boston Bruins came to town in 2008, the game sold out in a matter of hours. They've done this in a much older venue as well, with less of a chance to land a team than Winnipeg, with their small, but shiny "new" arena.

If it sounds like I'm calling out Mayor Sam Katz and other Winnipeg leaders to be more visible, more vocal and more transparent, it should-because I am.

Prove me wrong gentlemen, because right now all I see are a few press releases, a few soundbites and a few good men who actually want something to get done; but what I see in Quebec is hope, a vision, a plan, and most of all, passion.

I question yours.

Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume, recently won re-election by 80 percent in 2009, after running largely on a commitment to bring a team back to the province.

Mayor Katz is currently seeking re-election, but has he used this hot issue to an advantage? Not that I've seen.


Can you say "Missed opportunity?"


Timing Could Never be Better To Strike, Winnipeg

I've said it before and I'll say it again, you will never get a better opportunity to snatch up a franchise than you do now, with the NHL with low popularity, on an obscure channel in Versus (in America), where Bigfoot is seen more often than some NHL teams.

You will never have a golden opportunity like you do now to basically kick the league while they are down and possibly have your pick of the many struggling Southern franchises like Phoenix, Atlanta, Nashville and Florida than you do now.

Should the NHL get back on the ESPN family of networks and people can actually find the games again, not to mention all the additional new revenue coming in, it may be too late for little Winnipeg or even upstart, impassioned Quebec.

This is what I fear most.

You need to do something bold and you need to do it soon, or you will lose any chance, any credibility you have left, any card you might be holding in the deck of relocation forever.


Phoenix Coyotes deal announced soon?

In a cruel twist of fate, one that I never thought I'd see happen, Matthew Hulsizer, a Chicago businessman (otherwise known as a "local" owner in Glendale's eyes), is apparently willing and ready to lose $140 million (and more later) in buying the perennial money-losing team, otherwise known as the "Arizona money-pit."

To be clear, the $140 million is his bid to buy the team from the NHL—$25 million less than what the NHL initially wanted to cover operating losses from this upcoming season (remember all that commotion when Glendale very-publicly had that feel-good City Council meeting?). He must have a heart of gold, or money to burn—literally, I cannot tell.

All I can say is I'm actually not surprised.

While it is a damn shame, and one the NHL should be embarrassed about, I cannot say I'm surprised. The NHL made it very clear they never wanted Phoenix to lose their team. They certainly didn't want to go back to crappy, old, slow, non-progressive Canada.

No, we can't have that.

That would be the worst-case scenario.

Talk about looking bad.

Instead, they'll accept a bid that is $102M less than what Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie originally wanted to buy the team for (only to relocate it to Hamilton, Ontario), just to prove a point that the NHL gets what it wants; it appears the NHL is anti-Canadian.

There. I said it.

Don't believe me? Then of the 14 teams that have yet to play an NHL game overseas, why are five of them Edmonton, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, and Montreal, Canadian?

I'm sure it's just a coincidence.

I mean, Columbus—Columbus! For crying out loud, at least they got to play in Sweden this season!

Instead of proving me wrong, the NHL seems childishly-defiant on staying in a place they cannot win because the locals don't care.

If the NHL really and truly wanted to prove me wrong, they could start by doing the right thing and creating some goodwill: return to climates and cities from whence they came. Quebec City and Winnipeg would be at the top of the list; instead of they just flirt with the idea to get our hopes up.

All I can say is I hope the latest bid falls apart, leaving the NHL no choice from their self-imposed December 31 buy-or-else deadline. Along with pulling for a poor showing in the standings all season long, I'll be preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best.

Even if the deal gets done tomorrow or next week, as I understand it, Hulsizer would have to agree to a new lease agreement with the city, which is something that both Jerry Reinsdorf and those Ice Edge Holdings jokers both have failed to do.

Easier said than done.

Until then, the NHL will have to suffer through yet another aberration that is the 20th in league attendance: 17,125 came to the Phoenix Coyotes opener.

Must have been two-for-one ticket night. Or was it four-for-1?

Information from CBC.Ca, The Winnipeg Sun, Toronto Globe and Mail, TSN.Ca, ESPN.com, and Re-ElectSam.Ca, all contributed to the content of this article.


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