Yes, there is a lot of work to do. However, barring a complete collapse at the next NHL Board of Governors meeting June 21, one thing has been confirmed today…Winnipeg is back!
My only question is, can it survive this time around?
No doubt, Winnipeg is full of NHL starved rabid NHL fans. Having spoken with many Winnipeg residents in the past, it is no doubt a hockey hotbed, and hopefully, the new owners do choose to rename the NHL team the Winnipeg Jets. Judging by the outcry thus far, “Jets” seems to be the most popular choice. Names like Dale Hawerchuk, Teemu Selanne, Bob Essensa, and Teppo Numminen have been linked to Jets lore for the past several decades. There is no doubt that Winnipeg is hockey ready.
It will take a steady commitment from the fans to make this small market team viable. With a population averaging around 700,000, Winnipeg is the smallest market in the NHL. I do hope that the residents of Winnipeg realize that future successes of other new Canadian franchises depend on their success.
Am I being melodramatic? I don’t think so. Let’s be honest…the NHL (for whatever reason, not Bettman bashing today) has been hesitant to award Canada any NHL franchises beyond the six (seven!) that exist now. The economy has not been stellar. Until recently, the Canadian dollar was nowhere near the value of the US dollar. There has been very little in the way of corporate support and TV contracts. The NHL is still taking a chance in choosing Winnipeg as the new home for the Atlanta team. I also do not believe for a second that the NHL would have approved this transaction or allowed negotiations if there was no chance for success here. But make no mistake…should Winnipeg falter a second time, it will be that much harder for any Canadian market to get an NHL franchise. It’s up to the fans and the corporate world in Winnipeg to make sure the team isn’t packing its bags in another ten years for another destination.
So what a certain blackberry mogul couldn’t accomplish, True North has. You have made it seven! Enjoy your franchise, Manitoba!
To the fans in Atlanta…it is never easy losing a professional sports team in any league, and regardless of what public opinion may be, we all know deep down that the Thrashers had their true fan base, like any franchise does. Fans in Winnipeg, even though they are happy today, know what it is like to suffer that kind of loss. Let us never forget the true Thrashers fans, for whom today is a truly sad day.