First in Line

There is no question that Winnipeg is full of intense hockey fans. There is also no denying that the city has been teased a number of times with the return of an NHL franchise, and have since become cynical and disillusioned about the issue. Almost any good news at all on this front is met with a flurry of pessimism.

That does not speak to Winnipeg’s lack of interest in a team, but rather to our desire to not get our hopes up. The fact of the matter though, is that most Winnipegger’s (along with those outside of Winnipeg) do not realize just how feasible a relocation to Winnipeg has become. For the first time in a while, the Winnipeg media published some positive speculation about the potential for the city to land an NHL team.

Randy Turner of the Winnipeg Free Press (—-nhl-could-return-45394562.html) writes that we can no longer deny the feasibility. And just to enlighten HTR readers, I will outline the basic points he makes:

1.) The statement uttered by Earl Scudder has now become more than heresay. Emails between Bettman and Daly have been made public dating back to April 4th. In these emails, Bettman expresses in private his preference to give Winnipeg the first shot at the Coyotes. In said emails, it also appears that Bettman is conceding the fact that moving the team is one of the most likely conclusions to the Phoenix saga. Of course, he hasn’t fully given up yet, but it would seem he’s not as delusional as many of us Canadian fans tend to paint him.

2.) The time is ripe for Winnipeg to swoop in and take a team. The one thing Winnipeg lacks is an ownership group with immensely deep pockets. There is no one here who will compete with Balsillie’s insane 212.5 million dollar offer, plus the 17 million in support, plus the 50 million+ it will take to run the team next season before seeing any return on said investment. However, if Balsillie is out, then Winnipeg could certainly compete with Reinsdorf’s estimated bid of 130 million dollars. Further, the Reinsdorf bid would oust Gretzky, and is rumored to be little more than a front to move the team to Las Vegas. So there are definitely more positives with a Winnipeg offer.

3.) Despite all the propaganda spouted by Bettman, there is little doubt that more than a couple NHL franchises are struggling badly. Turner guesses that several owners could be, or will be trying to sell their teams outside of the media spotlight (Atlanta, Nashville, the Islanders, etc…). If that’s true, and more moves appear imminent in the coming years, then it’s not a stretch to see that Bettman would rather move the team to a secure location like Winnipeg, as oppose to another gambler’s market such as Las Vegas. A move to Winnipeg could increase league revenue without completely altering the financial balance of the league and throwing the lesser-lights out of the salary floor running. In short, it’s a buyers market as far as NHL franchises are concerned, and that’s a plus for Winnipeg.

4.) The Winnipeg ownership group has had several conversations over the last few years with the NHL. They have done things the right way. and been more than patient. If this is really all about precedence, than succeeding the team to Winnipeg would surely set a standard for how to acquire and relocate a franchise properly. And as Turner points out, if he was discussing Winnipeg in private emails with his deputy-commissioner, it is unlikely the conversation stopped there. In all likelihood, Chipman’s group has had talks under the radar with Bettman and Co.

5.) And as I’ve been saying on here, Phoenix has now had all their secrets made public. TSN was reporting tonight that the value of the team is sky-rocketting, but that just doesn’t make sense. Who’s going to outbid Balsillie to purchase a franchise that has lost 300 million dollars, only to go through the expensive process of moving it to a new city which is just as likely to fail, or at least, will need significant time to grow into a successful investment (ie. Kansas, Vegas, Houston, etc…)? The country is in a recession, and I just don’t see how that makes any sense for any businessman, no matter how deep their pockets. It doesn’t help that Moyes has expressed his frustration with the league, with his ‘accidental ownership’, and with the total failure of the club. It doesn’t help that several teams are making massive cutbacks, and Charles Wang is on record saying he regrets ever buying his team. Even if Bettman wins, this team cannot stay in Phoenix much longer, no matter what the 200+ protestors have to say about it.

Winnipeg can support that team better than any current US city. Could Hamilton do better? For sure they could, but not without altering the way the league is running at this current time. Also, apparently not without the league’s most hated man at the helm. It’s not outrageous to start imagining the return of the Winnipeg Jets.

28 Responses to First in Line

  1. hockeylegend488 says:

    I think halifax NS could host a team too? haha the halifax crosbys

  2. Kramer says:

    These judges don't know nothing. Can't even decide a simple case.

    Now we got 10 days of meditation. What ever that is.  Any fool can see hockey in Phoenix is like water skiing in Kentucky (no water).

  3. hockey_lover says:

    I also think Winnipeg should get a team again. However, NOT before other cities get a chance.

    Winnipeg and Quebec had teams and they lost them (for whatever reasons). They had their shot and it didnt work. Now, its time for other cities to get a chance. Once those other cities (whatever they are) work or dont work, then Winnipeg and Quebec should get another shot.

  4. wayne2 says:

    Winnipeg,Quebec,Hamilton and maybe even Halifax should have teams.
    Winnipeg has lots of fans + Regina and Saskatoon arent that far,
    Quebec also has lots of fans around the province,Hamilton would bring a healthy competition around Toronto and has enough fans to support both teams and Halifax would have all the maritimes to support them.

  5. cam7777 says:

    but in answer to that, bettman has always said that he feels the NHL failed the city of Winnipeg, and not the other way around, and that is why they will always be in the conversation.

  6. TheLeafNation91 says:



    This will ruin the Buffalo Sabres. Will ruin their QEW rivalry with Toronto. And personally, I like the rivalry!

    I would like to see Winniped again!!!! WINNIPEG!!!


  7. wayne2 says:

    My NHL by divisions:
    North east = Montreal,Quebec,Halifax,Boston
    North central east = Toronto,Ottawa,Hamilton,Buffalo
    Central east = New Jersey,Ny rangers,NY islanders,Pittsburgh
    South east = Philadelphia,Washington,Carolina,Tampa
    North west = Vancouver,Edmonton,Calgary,Winnipeg
    Central west =Detroit,Minesota,St-Louis,Chicago,Columbus
    South west = Anaheim,LA,San Jose,Colorado,Dallas

  8. arigold says:

    I think the league has a responsibility to both Winnipeg and Quebec City to at least attempt to bring back the NHL to those 2 markets.  As far as i'm concerned, no other market, especially not in Canada, should be granted a franchise before these 2 cities, it's only fair.

  9. Kramer says:

    The Vancouver Olympic torch looks like a joint.

  10. reinjosh says:

    while i agree that winnipeg would be a great place for a franchise, it is second the hamilton
    for the sole reason that hamilton is guaranteed to make money and bring a failing franchise back from the brink
    winnepeg has already failed once and their is no guarantee that they could succeed again (though in many people's opinions, they obviously would)
    moving to winnipeg makes no sense whatsoever in this bad economic time
    and as to your last point as to the coyotes skyrocketing in price
    it was meant that if the judge determines they have to relocate, then their will be plenty buyers who are interested in moving them

  11. KingCanada says:

    No it cant. 

    The entire province of Nova Scotia isnt even a million, the Halifax area is about 375 000 (not enough).  To give you an idea… Edmonton (NHL's smallest market) is about 1 000 000 people if you include the surrounding area.  So thats one million people in the smallest NHL market, there in Canada, there in a rich oil province…and yes still they struggle sometimes financially.

    There is not a chance in hell that ANY NHL team can function in the Maritimes.  Im a Maritimer and I can tell you there is no money there and not enough people.

  12. KingCanada says:

    I STILL believe southern Ontario would make a MUCH better market then Winnipeg or Quebec city for that matter.  Here's why…

    1- There is MUCH more money in southern Ontario so they wont have problems finding corporate sponsors (which is a MUST).
    2- There is waaaaay more people which leads to a higher demand on season tickets.
    3- Concerning Bettman and his stupid policies a southern Ontario team would make more revenue for the league then Winnipeg.
    4- Instant rival to Toronto, Buffalo and potentially Detroit.
    5- Last but not least…Bettman has always been concerned with attracting more NEW fans to the game.  Well southern Ontario attracts the MOST amount of new immigrants to the country.  Just the other day I was at the bar and overheard a half a dozen brown guys disgussing hockey for the better part of an hour, i was pleasantly impressed.

    To give you guys all an idea in terms of how much more potential there is in southern Ontario lets compare metropolitan areas…

    Winnipeg has about 700k in the surrounding area
    Quebec city has about the same at 700k-750k

    Toronto (GTA) has 5 million in the city and its immediate neighbors
    Hamilton (GHA) has 650k-700k in the area
    The Kitcherner/Waterloo/Cambridge area has almost 500k
    London has almost 500k as well

    So to me its very clear….within southern Ontario lies about 8 million people!!  Sure lots of residents in the GTA will remain loyal to the Leafs…but many will defect thats for sure because they will have a shot at season tickets to the Coyotes.

    Excluding the GTA…. Hamilton+KW area+London is STILL a much larger population then Winnipeg or Quebec with about 1.7 MILLION people.

    The choice is obvious…

  13. KingCanada says:

    Completly agree 100%

    Even if the Winnipeg arena is in better shape the Copps Colliseum…putting a team in southern Ontario GARANTEES revenue!  Sure they might spend more money now in refurbishing or building a new arena completly but in the long run it HAS to move to southern Ontario to give the league greater stability!!

  14. nordiques100 says:

    relocation just aint going to happen…..unless its to Las Vegas or Kansas City.

    There is no way a team in the US will relocate to Canada. Bettman will not allow it.


    a good idea is to maybe fold the Coyotes, go with 29 teams next season with plans to expand back to 30 teams in 2010/11.

    the players in their organization would be entered in a dispersal draft.

    it would solve so many issues.

    1. Gretzky will not have to be fired. I think that would be embarassing to see.

    2. The league will not be embarrassed as well by the sea of empty seats that will surely line arena with the team in limbo causing dwindling fan support. it would look like complete egg on the NHL's face to have crowds of 2000-3000 people for an NHL game. it will happen cause with all this court stuff dragging on, there is no way the organization can sell itself to the fans. and, it would save the league from keeping this team afloat, forcing the other owners to chip in to save the team. its bleeding out big time already. let it die and start a new life somewhere else.

    3. the league gets their all important expansion fees. whatever it is, 200-400 million, the money someone spends to get a team will this time go to the other 29 owners. not jerry moyes, not some other creditor.  and the players would get nothign out of this. bettman surely would approve that.

    4. southern ontario gets a team the right way. bailsille has gone about things the wrong way. trying to bull his way to Hamilton, forgetting the infringement rules and territorial rights, going around the league, no wonder he wont win.

    here, he or some other rich dude can bring another team be it in toronto or whatever, and in this way, it would be on the league's terms, preventing MLSE from doing anything about it invoking all that territorial crap. certainly the US owners will care less about if hamilton or whatever is in leaf nation. the cut they'll get from the expansion fees will mean much more. they get a team in place that this market could surely use and at the end of the day, the league gets healthier.

    5. and lastly, to save the leafs the embarassment, an expansion team, that may take a while to succeed is surely better than seeing the upstart yotes who have mueller, turris, boedker, hanzal, among other fine young players move here, completely lap the leafs in terms of being competitive and make the bud's futility even more worse than it is already.

  15. reinjosh says:

    unfortunately he may not have a choice given the judges TBD decision
    either way it goes, whether bettman wins or loses the court fight, he loses
    if he does win
    he screws himself with a team that IS going to lose money no question and the owners lose their faith in him and he gets booted out
    if he lose
    balsillie gets in and the owners see that an infusion of new money is good and then the owners lose faith in him and he gets booted

  16. cam7777 says:

    you forget though that the hamilton franchise would disrupt the sabres, and alter the financial balance of the NHL.  actually, bringing hamilton in might guarantee that another franchise gets a chance to move to winnipeg, so either way im down, but still, bettman won't see it that way.

    also, the economy has nothing to do with it.  there is no place in canada less effected by the recession than winnipeg.  our economy has barely even stalled, much less regressed. 

    and yes, i understand the final point, but dreger acts like there's dozens of americans just waiting to spend upwards of 220 million (plus whatever it would take to run the team next year – 60 million, approx.) to move the team to all sorts of unstable markets.  rrright.  no one is outbidding balsille for a worthless franchise that's lost 300 million dollars.  especially not when the next highest "bid" was almost 100 dollars smaller.

    even the phoenix ownership group that stepped forward today basically said they would put down a bid once the NHL has won the legal battle, because they clearly can't outbid balsillie.

  17. cam7777 says:

    well, bill daly and gary bettman are both on record saying that winnipeg would get consideration well in front of kansas city and las vegas (daly literally says that Winnipeg will be considered before those places; it's not just implied).  that simply isn't true anymore.  too much failure in the league right now for rich businessmen, or the league itself, to risk moving into another non-interest zone.

    but as for the rest, that would actually be a fantastic idea, and it solves all the problems.  the only difficulty would be in scheduling 29 teams versus the standard 30.  again though, don't be so sure that hamilton would be the first place bettman would look for expansion. but by this time next year, we could be talking about another 2 or 3 teams on the verge of moving.

    it's starting to look like the league could look very different in a pretty short time frame (5 years).  What do they do in Atlanta if they improve the team this year, and next, and still see no financial improvent (or worse, digression)?  How long can Nashville hold it together?  Even trading away Lecavalier in Tampa could end up proving disastrous with such moronic owners as Len Barrie and Oren Koules. 

    How would the dispersal draft work?  Which young superstar would the Leafs land?

  18. reinjosh says:

    actually dreger really did incredibly overstate that fact

  19. cam7777 says:

    well of course there's more money in hamilton, but that money can't be utilyzed without compromising the sabres, pissing off the leafs, and generally changing the financial status quo of the league (negatively for many fringe teams).  also, corporate sponsors are not a concern for winnipeg.  they wouldn't be massive sponsors like labatt and what not, but we have an enormous number of press boxes to sell to the white collar men of Winnipeg. 

  20. nordiques100 says:

    i really think though southern ontario is the best available untapped market out there. Yes KC has a building, yes LV serves bettman's need for a known US market, but the time has come for a 7th canadian team. there is really no more holding back. its too much money to leave off the table.

    and while the leafs and sabres will whine about it, you have to believe people like Karmanos, Jacobs, Leiopold among others will not give a darn to the leafs so long as they get their piece of what will likely be 300 or so million divided up amongst 29 teams. the board will overrule the leafs in this case and a team in southern ontario beckons. or preferably a 2nd team in tdot.

    as for the dispersal draft, well it would likely be done in inverse order of finish meaning the Isles would pick first, then Tampa and so forth.

    That would leave the Leafs picking 7th.

    They have some good players:

    Prospects: Goncharov, Porter, MacLean, Turris, Summers, 6th pick in 09
    Top Young Roster Players: Mueller, Boedker, Tikhonov, Hanzal, Upshall
    Other youngsters: Dawes, Prucha, Yandle, Tordjman, Lombardi
    Veterans: Doan, Jovanovski, Michalek, Bryzgalov, Sauer

    Who the leafs would get out of this if this happened, who knows, but again, finishing out of the top 5, which some of us got slammed for complaining about, would yet again screw the leafs out of one of phoenix top young players.

  21. HABSSTAR says:

    So what you're saying is there should be no Avs, Thrashers or Wild?  As well KC is out then… 

  22. HABSSTAR says:

    Having a team in Hamilton will probably do more for the Leafs than anything else.  MLSE might finally get scared enough to ice a championship team if the competition starts funnelling away the fans.

  23. cam7777 says:

    depends, if you factor in this years draft, what some teams take might be not what you would think:

    If this happened, it would allow the Islanders to draft Hedman, and the select Turris for their offensive force.

    The Lightning would then take Tavares and Yandle, making Lecavalier expendable and adding yet another blue chip prospect to the back end (although, Yandle is hardly a prospect anymore).

    The Av's would take Duchene, and even either Boedker or Bryzgalov, depending on whether they feel they could find a true number 1 in free agency/trade or not.

    The Thrasher's is where it gets interesting, as I think they would take Kane in the draft, and then Jovanovski in the dispersal, adding both the top flight prospect they want and the veteran saavy on the back end they need to entice Kovy.

    Los Angeles would take Magnus PaarjarviSvensson, and Shane Doan, making Dustin Brown their most valuable (and expendable) trade chip.  (Kaberle and a 2nd for Brown and a 1st in 2010?)

    Toronto would go next then basically, as Phoenix draft choice would essentially be null and void, selecting Peter Mueller and Brayden Schenn.  Could still turn out pretty good for the Leafs. 

    Of course, that was all highly ridiculous, since this is not likely to happen, but it's a good idea, and it would be amazing.  If only that could happen to Nashville as well, and we could end up with Shea Weber. 

  24. TheLeafNation91 says:

    I enjoy mediocracy so…Screw Hamilton

  25. hockey_lover says:

    If Colorado and Atlanta had teams previously, then no. I dont believe Minnesota should have a team right now either.

    I think they should have given cities that have never had a team first crack, if they are viable. I dont think North Bay, Ontario should be given the chance of having a team because its not viable.

    BUT, today, if the choice was either Winnipeg, Hamilton, or KC, Id say Hamilton.

  26. flamefan20 says:

    stfu you whore

    where do you think the team should go
  27. number15 says:

    im pretty sure the NHL said Winnipeg is LAST resort…… only if they have no other choice.

    Bettman wants hocky to stay in USA

  28. cam7777 says:

    actually, if you could have been bothered to read the article, bettman and daly are on the record both publicly, and privately among themselves, proclamiing winnipeg as the first city in line to have a shot at an NHL franchise.  Even ahead of Kansas, Houston and Vegas, according to Mr. Daly.

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