NHL Returning to Winnipeg:11 Reasons Winnipeg Will Be a Better Home Than Atlanta
Yesterday, the NHL announced that True North Sports and Entertainment has purchased the Atlanta Thrashers and intends to relocate the franchise to Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The relocation is pending approval by the Board of Governors and commissioner Gary Bettman has said that to ensure the approval, 13,000 season tickets must be sold before the June 21 board meeting.
In a hockey-loving city like Winnipeg, 13,000 tickets shouldn't be a problem; especially for a city that has been waiting for an NHL franchise to return since the last one left 15 years ago.
Here are the reasons that Winnipeg will make a better home for the NHL franchise than Atlanta.
Winnipeg is smaller than Atlanta, but the vast majority of Winnipeggers are hockey fans, which cannot be said of Atlanta.
Besides that, Saskatchewan is close-by and they don’t have an NHL franchise either. They’ll be drawn to the closer NHL franchise.
Plus, North Dakota is pretty close. They of course love their hockey, with the successful UND hockey program, but they don’t have an NHL franchise to support either.
That's a lot of underserved hockey fans around Winnipeg that the team will serve.
Winnipeg is a cold city. That's an understatement actually.
The city is often referred to as “Winterpeg." Average winter temperatures fall way below zero.
The freezing temperatures of the city screams hockey more so than the warmer climate of Atlanta.
As someone from up north once told me, "I remember when we used to go to the hockey rink to warm up from the cold outside."
That's Winnipeg, not Atlanta.
9. Money Matters
The Winnipeg Jets were sold and relocated because of financial issues.
The Canadian dollar was down and the team had to pay their players in American dollars while earning revenues in Canadian dollars. The discrepancies were glaring.
Now, the Atlanta Thrashers were forced to sell because of financial issues.
Winnipeg doesn’t have those financial issues anymore, the Canadian dollar is stronger than the American dollar now.
The Manitoba economy is booming, with their gross domestic product growing each year.
Plus, the NHL has salary caps now, prompting more fiscal responsibility for NHL teams.
The facts from the past slide combined with the fact that hockey is more popular in Canada means that the team is sure to be more profitable in Winnipeg than it was in Atlanta.
The team will very likely sell out all their games.
The combination of that, along with the new merchandise sales, will yield more of a profit for the owners, the team and the NHL than Atlanta did.
That's good news for everybody.
7. MTS Centre
MTS Centre seats 15,015 for hockey games. Philips Arena in Atlanta on the other hand, had a hockey capacity of 17,624.
The average capacity in the NHL is around 18-19,000.
MTS Centre is a smaller arena, so there are less seats to fill.
With the return of the NHL to the city and the short supply of seat will increase the demand.
6. Winnipeg's Attraction
Players will be more attracted to Winnipeg than Atlanta.
Hockey players like to play in front of large, sold-out audiences. The adrenaline helps pump them up and perform well for their supportive fans.
Free agents will be more likely to sign with the Winnipeg team than the Atlanta team.
Even though Atlanta has a nicer climate and is a busier city, the players will be more attracted to the passionate hockey climate of Winnipeg.
5. Hometown Crowd
Hometown players on opposing teams will get the hometown love when they return to play in Winnipeg.
Fans will flock to the arena to see the hometown boys playing in the NHL.
Teams like the Chicago Blackhawks will be very popular, with captain Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp hailing from the region.
Toews will also attract the UND crowd to trek up north.
4. True North Sports and Entertainment
True North Sports and Entertainment already have stakes in hockey-- they own and have been cultivating the brand for the AHL's Manitoba Moose.
Atlanta Spirit owns the Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena, so they had stakes in the sports and entertainment business, but not in hockey specifically.
True North has cultivated the Moose into one of the most popular and successful teams in the AHL.
They should be able to do the same for the new Winnipeg NHL franchise.
3. Hockey History in Winnipeg
Winnipeg has a rich hockey history.
The city was home to the Winnipeg Falcons, the team that won the first Olympic gold medal for Canada.
They were also home to the Winnipeg Jets from 1972-1996.
During the team's tenure in the World Hockey Association (1972-79), the team won three Avco World Trophies. Additionally, the team often won their division.
Atlanta doesn't have the rich hockey history that Winnipeg has.
2. Passionate Jets Fans in the City
There are plenty of passionate Jets fans still left in Winnipeg. They continue to purchase Jets merchandise, despite the fact that the team hasn't been in the city in 15 years.
The citizens of Winnipeg and Manitoba have been waiting and hoping for the NHL to return to the city.
They will support the new team in the city. They won’t let another team leave.
1. Hockey in Canada
There’s greater support for hockey across Canada than there is in the U.S.
Every NHL team in Canada except Ottawa sold out every game last year. Even the Edmonton Oilers, who were the worst team in the league, sold out every game.
Fans in Canada love the game of hockey, whether their team is winning or not.
The city of Winnipeg will be no different than the rest of Canada. They'll support the new Winnipeg franchise, no matter how the team performs on the ice.
They'll have no trouble filling that small arena.