Winnipeg’s mayor says it’s just “a matter of time” before a deal to move the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg is announced. Sam Katz says the deal to bring an NHL team back to Winnipeg “is going to happen.” He says there is an understanding the deal will move forward but nothing is signed, sealed and delivered yet. No one is more anxious to officially learn the fate of the Atlanta Thrashers than members of the team. The players have been given no indication one way or the other where they’ll be playing home games next season, according to goaltender Chris Mason.
“They’re not going to include us in any of the stuff and we shouldn’t be either,” Mason said Friday from his off-season home in Red Deer, Alberta. “We’ll know probably the same time or after everybody else knows, that’s the way it goes. “We’re sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to see what’s going to happen, too.” Mason has played in six different cities during his professional career and is facing the possibility of moving once again. “That’s one of the very few things that is tough about the job,” said Mason. “I’m fortunate enough to be playing hockey and that’s one of the things that you just have to deal with. It’s happened throughout a hockey player’s career and that’s just the way it goes. We’ve done it before, we’ll do it again.” Mason has mixed feeling about relocating from Atlanta to Winnipeg. On one hand he feels bad about the fans and team employees that would be left behind in Atlanta but it would also give him a chance to live out a dream. “There’s definitely things that would be really cool about it,” said Mason. “Playing in Canada, for me, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. It would be really cool. Just playing in front of a packed house every night would be awesome.”
All of this was started by an article yesterday by The Globe and Mail in Toronto stating the Thrashers’ agreement with True North was done and will be announced in Winnipeg on Tuesday. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and True North Sports and Entertainment quickly denied the report Thursday that a deal has been reached to sell the team to True North, which would relocate the team to Winnipeg, Manitoba. There are still obstacles to overcome, but it looks inevitable this time; hockey is back in Winnipeg and Canadians are celebrating across the country. The Winnipeg Jets, as they should be called, should be soaring again this year after 16 plus years in the waiting.
Until the next puck drops,
The rumours continue to swirl around the fact that about a half dozen N.H.L. teams if not more are in red ink when it comes to running their franchises. More specifically in the sun belt, teams like Phoenix, Atlanta, Nashville and Florida to name a few are repeatedly drawing poor attendance and losing tens of millions of dollars a year in running their franchises.
This is a concern that needs to be addressed. N.H.L. commissioner Gary Bettman has on many occasions said he would prefer not to go the direction of relocation and instead try to fix the problem in these struggling markets. The problem is not getting better its only getting worse. The obvious solution, and this is coming from a fan’s point of view, is to move a few teams north of the border where hockey is religion in every corner of the country.
Here are a few scenarios that would make the N.H.L. a more healthy and successful league on a whole:
Phoenix Coyotes -Moving the Phoenix Coyotes to Winnipeg and bringing back the Jets would be a great move. They have a N.H.L. ready arena and an ownership group in place ready to put the deal together. Don’t be surprised if the Coyotes are playing in Winnipeg as early as this fall. I say cheers to that!
Atlanta Thrashers– A second Canadian city that would be a great fit for the cash strapped Thrashers would be to move them to Quebec City and bring back the Quebec Nordiques. Quebec City is in the process of building a new state of the art N.H.L. arena that should be ready by 2015. In the mean time, they could play out of the old Colisée arena. Bottom line here, it is a great market, very profitable and a new arena is on the way. Bring back the Nordiques!
This is where it gets a little difficult, teams like Nashville, Florida and even the New York Islanders are in trouble. The problem is there is only so many strong markets to replace these struggling franchises with and when I say struggling I don’t mean their performance on the ice, I mean poor attendance, out dated arenas and poor revenue. You could move them to other U.S. cities like Kansas City for example where they have a brand new N.H.L. ready arena just sitting there waiting to land a team, however the N.H.L. has been in Kansas City before in the 1970s and failed miserable there. They only lasted two seasons, then called the Kansas City Scouts, before relocating.
So I guess the question is, does the N.H.L. really want to go back to a market that has already failed? The obvious guess is no. Other U.S. markets that have shown interest are Seattle, Houston, Oklahoma City, Cincinnati to name a few. All questionable markets for hockey if you ask any expert. Another potential solution would be to contract a few teams. It’s a 30 team N.H.L. but with so many struggling franchises and so few great markets to go to, maybe contracting a few teams would be a feasible solution.
Which ever way you shake it the N.H.L. more specifically Gary Bettman needs to seriously assess some of these struggling markets and make a move if the N.H.L. wants to be a profitable league once again, something that has truly been lacking since he took over as N.H.L. commissioner some 18 years ago.
It’s about time The Commissioner takes action!
And that’s my two cents,