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Winnipeg and Second Chances

May 17, 2011, 2:33 PM ET [ Comments]
Paul McCann
Nashville Predators Blogger •Predators Radio Network • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Atlanta Thrashers are moving to Winnipeg. Maybe. Sort of. The Canadian media, desperate to be right about something (after all, the Coyotes were supposed to be moving the day after they bowed out of the playoffs… still waiting for that one) are trumpeting the reports that came out yesterday… the owners of the Atlanta Thrashers were negotiating with True North Sports and Entertainment.

Well… duh!

After years of simply terrible ownership, the Thrashers are not in good shape from a business perspective. Their on ice fortunes may be a lot better than their front office ones… and once again… thirty years later… Atlanta hockey fans may be hung out to dry. The interesting part is that if these reports are true, the Thrashers would be moving to a market that failed previously. Oh sure… it is being couched as a “second chance” for Winnipeg… but that is simply a euphemism for “failed previously.”

I’ve laid this out in an earlier blog, Winnipeg is a dicey market for the NHL. A market that presents challenges for the league and for the ownership that brings a team to the eighth largest media market in Canada. The biggest issue for Winnipeg is an issue Nashville fans are quite familiar with… lack of corporate presence in the market. That lack of corporate presence with present a ticket sales challenge... even in Canada.

The nostalgic part of me would love to see the NHL back in Winnipeg… but let’s not think that moving the Thrashers to the ‘Peg is an automatic win. Winnipeg would immediately become the smallest market in the NHL, by a large margin. Think of Ottawa, one of the bottom two smallest markets in the league… a Canadian market who’s nasty little secret is that they are struggling to sell out, flying in the face of the story that all you have to do is come to a Canadian market and all will be well.

The era of “cost certainty” is also touted as a win for a smaller market like Winnipeg. That may be true, but the only certainty the salary cap has shown so far is that the cost is certain to go up. “Cost certainty” hasn’t meant cost containment. The other cost issue has to do with the Canadian dollar. In the bad old days of a higher US dollar, Canadian markets like Edmonton, Vancouver and Calgary were struggling financially. The relative equality of the currencies between the two countries is a good thing for the league right now, but if the US dollar recovers, we may find ourselves in the same situation that led to Winnipeg's (and Quebec's) move in the 90’s.

I would hate to see a market lose their team… especially one with a thriving youth hockey structure. But let’s face some facts. Atlanta is not what I would call a great sports market. If you ain’t winning, they ain’t showing up… before they began to win, you could fire a shotgun across the stands at a Braves game and not hit anyone, and after they didn’t consistently win in the playoffs, they weren’t selling out playoff games without help from the visitors. The Thrashers on-ice futility doesn’t help in this case, this team needs to win and quick or there may be no hope for this team in Atlanta. Thrasher fans are rallying, trying to do what they can to save their team, I wish them well. You can check out a couple of their websites… www.keepthethrashers.com and www.thrasherbacker.com. Pred Nation is behind you.

I’m not saying that the NHL shouldn’t try it again in Winnipeg, I’m just saying that if it happens, go in with open eyes. I spoke to quite a few Winnipeg fans that traveled to Nashville for the Vancouver series, they were passionate about wanting the Jets back. A franchise in Manitoba could live off that nostalgia for a few years, buying them time to put a successful product on the ice. But if they cannot get a winning team together, you may find “Save the Moose” organizations springing up to try and stave off the move to Hamilton in 2019.


Random Notes

- Two surgeries being reported from Nashville, Mike Fisher and Nick Spaling (reported by Josh Cooper in today’s Tennessean.

- Linus Klasen has returned to Sweden, signing with the Swedish Elite League.

- Nice interview of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber on the Predators website on the ’10-’11 season. Strange to see Shea without the beard…

- With all the talk of Atlanta moving, wouldn’t it be nice for the Predators to just slide into that spot in the Southeast division? It would certainly save the team a boatload of money on travel.

- Eastern Conference Finals get back tonight with the Bruins in a must win situation... or maybe not… Boston dropped the first two at home against Montreal and they are still here.

- Tampa Bay is the story of the playoffs, a geezer goalie, a new coach and young talent all combining to augment the existing group.

- Tonight’s playoff schedule – Tampa Bay @ Boston – Lightning Lead 1-0 – 7pm CDT (Versus, TSN)


You are invited to follow me on Twitter. Search for @PredPAPaul… Not only will I be updating when I get news or updates, but we are having a bit of fun by getting your input on Gnash introductions, weigh in on Twitter and who knows, we may use your introduction for the best mascot in the NHL at the next Preds game!



We’re talking conference finals and potential divisional re-alignment on Wednesday’s SlapShot Radio – 6pm on SportsRadio 560 WNSR

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