Seven Reasons the NHL Will Succeed in Winnipeg
With the recent acquisition of the Atlanta Thrashers by True Sports and Entertainment today, the city of Winnipeg rejoiced because after a fifteen year absence, the NHL is back in this small, hockey-hungry market.
Let's go over the reasons why Winnipeg will prove that leaving for Phoenix was a mistake.
Most of the fans of the new, yet to be named Winnipeg hockey team remember what it was like to lose their beloved franchise.
With a second chance, the fans will prove that they are worthy of a team.
Commissioner Gary Bettman has called for 13,000 season tickets to be sold before June 21st, when the Board of Governors meet to make the move official.
People would have to be crazy to think that the citizens of Manitoba will not be lining up to secure their season tickets. I was listening to Winnipeg radio today and people were crying because of their happiness.
Hockey means everything to these people, and having felt the loss of a team, they will be sure it never happens again.
True North Sports and Entertainment have owned the Manitoba Moose since 2004, preparing for this moment when they brought NHL hockey back to Winnipeg. Mark Chipman is a native of Manitoba and he will not allow for this team to leave again. He has money, bought the franchise relatively cheap.
The group paid $170 million for the franchise and another $60 million to the NHL for relocation. To put this in perspective David Einhorn bought around a 30 percent share of the New York Mets for $200 million.
True North has worked too hard and spent too much time to let this franchise fail and let the people of Manitoba down. Their relentless hard work has paid off and now nothing will let them fail.
When the Jets left for Phoenix, the Canadian dollar was weak. Selling tickets in weak Canadian dollars while paying players in American dollars is not a good combination.
This allowed for the financing of the Jets to be questioned and led to new ownership and a new city. Also, the NHL did not have a salary cap when the Jets left, so the Jets could not compete financially with bigger market teams who were not losing money.
Now the NHL has a salary cap, with a minimum amount and maximum to make every team be on equal playing field. Even Gary Bettman said today that hockey financial rules allow for small market teams to compete.
The Canadian dollar is stronger than the American dollar, making it easy for the new team to make money in the near future. This will not last forever, but ownership should be able to take care of that.
The old Winnipeg Arena was past 40-years-old when the Jets left for Phoenix, way past the usage for an arena. The worn-down arena was one of the reasons why the Jets left initially, but a new arena, the MTS Centre which is owned by True North Sports and Entertainment, was built in 2004 to attract an NHL team back to Winnipeg.
The new arena will be the lowest capacity arena in the NHL, seating about 1,000 less than Nassau Coliseum, home of the Islanders. This will create supply and demand, with the building hopefully being sold out every night there is a game.
The Atlanta Thrashers were 25th out of 30 teams last year in the standings. They were even worse when it comes to attendance, ranking 28th out of 30. The team had a pedestrian 17-17-9 home record.
A sell out crowd, an atmosphere and fans that will support the team could provide a lot of enthusiasm and help to this young team. The playoffs are not a far cry this year, especially in the one year where the Winnipeg club will play in the weaker Eastern Conference.
The Thrashers had promise in Atlanta, but now with a new town, the club should be rejuvenated to play in front of a new audience.
The Thrashers have a nice core of young players. Evander Kane, Bryan Little, Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, and Blake Wheeler are some of the notable players under 27. This team built itself last season, starting off hot before fading at the end.
With a year of experience in a quiet building, the burst of energy should give this team an extra boost that is needed for making the playoffs a distinct possibility. The citizens of Manitoba will make sure the players and their families fit right in.
And just in case you were wondering, nine guys on the current Thrashers roster are Canadian.
Love of Hockey
The people of Manitoba (and Canadians in general) love their hockey. The people have already supported the AHL team, the Manitoba Moose, but the NHL is totally different from the AHL.
The Moose have one of the highest attendances in the AHL, showing how much these people love their hockey. The Moose are Vancouver's affiliate so they aren't seeing bad players. Then again they do get called up pretty often.
The NHL should be thrilled to add such a thriving market to their arsenal, and with NHL revenue in Canada and the US at one of the highest points ever, dropping the 28th ranked attendance for a city that has wanted a team for the past fifteen years doesn't seem like a bad move.