NHL: Day of Joy in Winnipeg with Atlanta Thrashers' Relocation

Steve ThompsonAnalyst IIIMay 31, 2011

2 Oct 1996:  Right-winger Teemu Selanne of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks moves around the net during a game against the Winnipeg Jets played at Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California.  The Mighty Ducks won the game, 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Cratty  /Allsp
Glenn Cratty/Getty Images

The wall finally cracked. The barrier is finally gone. The Winnipeg (Jets?) are back in the NHL.

Today, True North Sports and Entertainment, led by Mark Chipman and Dave Thomson, brought an NHL team, the late and mostly unlamented Atlanta Thrashers, back to Winnipeg.

All the petitions, all the scraping for hopeful news, all the pressure, all the prayers by the Manitoba Mythbusters and similar groups have finally paid off.

Now it is time to see if the Mythbusters put their money where their mouths are and buy up the 13,000 season tickets Mr. Chipman said should occur in order to impress the NHL Board of Governors to vote positively for both an ownership transfer and a franchise shift on June 21.

This column has always been in favor of Winnipeg getting its team back, either by expansion or relocation, but only if the team had the safeguards necessary for long term survival and success.

The new team has met only 50 percent of that criteria.

On the plus side, the new team will finally have rich enough owners to operate a team successfully in Winnipeg, especially billionaire Thomson.

On the negative side, Winnipeg still refuses to deal with the arena situation, something that could threaten long term success.

If Edmonton and Long Island finally build their new arenas, Winnipeg will be 2,000 seats smaller than the smallest current NHL arena.

How long will Thomson and Chipman be willing to operate at that level? How much will a small arena impair Winnipeg's efforts to ice a competitive team that can compete for the Stanley Cup?

The small arena and the low Canadian dollar were the reasons the first Jets left town. It could happen again.

However this should not be a day to be a party pooper.ย 

Winnipeg deserves to congratulated for its persistence and faith, which played a big role in getting an NHL team back for at least some short term success.

Will Winnipeg's fans now petition the Queen to get Commissioner Gary Bettman knighted?

Will Commissioner Gary gain some credibility and popularity in Canada?

Actually, if any American deserves to be blessed by Winnipeg's fans it's Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch, who desperately wants the Red Wings to be relocated to the Eastern Conference, where they will play more games at EST to boost television ratings and revenue, save on airfare and travel expenses and play more games with more Original Six teams, boosting viewership.

When Winnipeg is shifted to the Western Conference, Detroit might be able realize its dream.

Ilitch is the reason the NHL chose Winnipeg instead of cities like Quebec, Hamilton and Hartford, which have bigger and better arenas and markets.

Ilitch is the reason that the NHL refused to fight for Atlanta the way it has fought for even more hopeless Phoenix.

Just think, Hamilton lost a team because the one Jim Balsillie went after was in the wrong conference.

Meanwhile its time to rejoice with Winnipeg and take bets.

About when the (Jets?) will win the Stanley Cup? Of course not; that will take eons.

The bets will be about how soon the size of their arena becomes an issue in Winnipeg.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.