Nikolai Khabibulin remains one of the few Jets still in the NHL
In the past few years, the voices in Winnipeg have grown even louder. A recent (though said to be false by the NHL) report that True North Sports and Entertainment was going to buy and move the Coyotes has caused even more commotion.
There is no doubt that the city of Winnipeg wants the NHL to return, but are they ready?
The fans in Winnipeg have made some pretty bold arguments that a team should return to their city, but they have left out a lot of things. At the risk of receiving some bad comments, I am going to bring to light some of the cons of an NHL team returning to Winnipeg.
1. The NHL Has Options
Though Winnipeg appears to be the loudest, they are not the only city screaming for an NHL team. Several other cities have expressed a lot of interest in the NHL and some have even built arenas to entice. Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Houston, Milwaukee and Portland have all expressed interest in an NHL team and all (outside of Milwaukee) have arenas ready to go with seating that surpasses 17,000.
2. The Numbers
The MTS Centre is supposedly going to be renovated to increase capacity, but right now the seating is slightly above 15,000, which would make it the smallest building in the NHL. Currently, the lowest attendance in the league is around 11,000 for the New York Islanders. If the Jets sold out every seat for every game of the season, they would be behind The Panthers, Lightning and Hurricanes (teams who receive criticism for not being located in “Hockey Markets”), who all sold well over 15,000 seats every game in 2010-2011.
The team would likely sell out the first and second season, but what about 5-8 years from now when fan interest fades? You could potentially have a team that has 12,000 attendances still selling out nearly 80% of their building.
Winnipeg itself also has the problem of being a small market. The entire area of Winnipeg only has a population of around 700,000. This population makes it the smallest market on the list of teams above. (Houston-5.1 Million; Kansas City – 2.1 Million; Portland – 2.2 Million; Oklahoma City – 1.3 Million; Milwaukee 1.7 Million.)
Why would the NHL want to put a team in a small market with a small arena when there are alternatives?
Another important factor about Winnipeg is the reality that the NHL has been there and left for a reason. Being the smallest market in the NHL caused the Jets to have major financial issues and made it nearly impossible for the team to compete. The league is run on American dollars and the fluctuation of the Canadian dollar caused even more financial problems. In normal Gary Bettman fashion, a lot of effort was made to keep the team in Winnipeg, but they could not find a new owner, as no one wanted to spend around $100 million to lose millions more.
4. There Are No Pros
If the Jets don't return, who should get an NHL team?
The biggest con with Winnipeg is that there are no Pros to put them above the competition. If you ignore comments like: “We will do better than Phoenix;” my days of research has yet to produce a single legitimate reason as to why the NHL should put a team in Winnipeg over Houston, Portland or Kansas City. Passionate fans are great, but Winnipeg is not the only city that would passionately welcome a new team. The city of Winnipeg has owners interested in purchasing a team, but again, this is not unique. The Atlanta Thrashers alone have three-five potential buyers.
Being an amateur writer for a blogging site, it is important to realize that these cons also may not prevent a move to Winnipeg. If I am wrong, I will be the first to admit it and welcome the Jets back, but the numbers just don’t make sense. Why would you move a team to Winnipeg when you have Houston (4th largest metropolitan population [6.1 million], a brand new 17,800 seat arena and one of the fastest growing markets in the US) asking as well?