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Freezing Out Winnipeg

from Randy Turner of the Winnipeg Free Press,

So some NHL players are reportedly balking about coming to Winnipeg—even before the city gets a team, or may never get one?

That’s a head-scratcher for Manitoba Moose head coach Claude Noel.

“You know what? People with no-trade clauses in their contracts dictate where they want to play,” Noel said. “But for me, it isn’t about location. That’s all fine and dandy, but I think it’s about the environment and that’s what you create. I mean, is Detroit a better destination that Winnipeg? And players want to play in Detroit.

“I have nothing against Detroit (ravaged during the current recession), but I’ve been in cities that were maybe not ideal. You go where the winning becomes the environment. And I think if Winnipeg got a team they’d have to re-establish themselves as whatever that is. (But) Players want to have success.”

Noel was reacting to a Free Press question relating to comments made by Hockey Night in Canada analyst Glenn Healy on the Hot Stove segment Saturday night. The topic was the tenuous financial situation surrounding the Atlanta Thrashers and Healy, a former NHLPA executive, said it’s common for higher profile NHL players to have lists of teams where they can’t be traded

“Guess what name is appearing on a lot of players’ no-move teams? Atlanta,” Healy said. “Why? Because if the team goes to Winnipeg, it’s not a desirable place for them to play their winters.”


Filed in: NHL Teams, Atlanta Thrashers, | KK Hockey | Permalink


Leo_Racicot's avatar

Healy’s comments are a joke and are likely an arm for a specific faction of power within the NHL that wishes to keep the team out of Winnipeg due to the impact it will have on the current configuration of the NHL.

If Atlanta was a decent franchise to play for it wouldn’t have taken a Blackhawks transplant to get a bunch of former cup winners to join the team this past summer.

The fact is, the franchise sucks and has sucked since its second incarnation.  Can anybody name any key UFA’s they’ve landed since the lockout outside of last summer?  How about before the lockout?  Crickets?  Yep.

I feel bad for the few commited fans that are down there (and in other struggling but that city has never been a hockey town going back to its days with the Flames.

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 02/22/11 at 06:14 PM ET

Alan's avatar

I feel bad for the few commited fans that are down there (and in other struggling but that city has never been a hockey town going back to its days with the Flames.

Let’s see how this all plays out first.

Posted by Alan from Atlanta on 02/22/11 at 06:23 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

I don’t think Noel’s comments are disparaging Detroit, so let me start by saying that I’m not here to bash him. I’m not offended by what he said.

What I want to bring up is that his comments clearly come from ignorance. And all the time, fans and media members alike say similar things that aren’t really offensive to Detroit, but show a total lack of understanding as to what the metro Detroit area offers Red Wings players and staff members.

The city limits of Detroit—and this is a sad but true fact—do not have much to offer anyone any more. But the metro area between Detroit and Ann Arbor is one of the largest networks of suburban communities in the entire U.S., including communities that range from lower-middle-class to “affluent,” and everything in between. And regardless of the economic level of the community, most of those suburbs are very safe, family-oriented communities.

And hockey players have clearly shown that, in general, their ideal lifestyle is more of a “midwestern” style, which is exactly what the Detroit suburbs offer. Why else haven’t free agents flocked to spots like Carolina, the two Florida teams, Nashville, Atlanta, Anaheim, or Dallas? Even L.A. hasn’t exactly been a hot destination for free agency, despite all the excitement and uniqueness the city has to offer.

I would never argue that winning isn’t the main ingredient. It absolutely is. Players were not flocking to Detroit when the Dead Wings were in full force because Novi is a nice community for a hockey family to live.

My point is that if you look at what players like Chris Osgood, Kris Draper, Todd Bertuzzi, or Dan Cleary have said, it’s a lot about winning, but it’s also a lot about the way they and their families have taken to their communities in the metro area. The organization is a huge part of that—they bend over backwards to help new players get their kids in the schools they want, and find the types of neighborhoods where they can live quietly. But the fact is, those nice communities and schools still have to exist…

Again, winning is the large majority of the equation… people just don’t understand that there are other reasons that guys like Chris Chelios and Kirk Maltby and Jiri Fischer and Mark Howe and (until recently) Steve Yzerman and Pat Verbeek have stuck around.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 02/22/11 at 06:25 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I nearly moved to Winnipeg. Snow included, it’s a lovely city and the people there are downright Midwestern in their warmness and sense of humor as they’ve got a Detroit-like level of city-as-the-butt-of-national-jokes stuff to deal with.

The fans are also equally hockey crazy and polite as all hell get out. While you’re just as likely to see an AHL’er in the local Safeway as anybody else, you might get a nod, a handshake and a kind word and then be left alone.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 02/22/11 at 06:28 PM ET

SYF's avatar

But the metro area between Detroit and Ann Arbor is one of the largest networks of suburban communities in the entire U.S., including communities that range from lower-middle-class to “affluent,” and everything in between. And regardless of the economic level of the community, most of those suburbs are very safe, family-oriented communities.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 02/22/11 at 03:25 PM ET

I live in Clark County, NV and I’m now very used to seeing top-dollar Porsches, Ferraris, Bentleys, Maybachs, BMWs, and Mercedes on a regular, every day basis.  Hell, less than a mile from my house are two gated-communities with homes averaging $750,000 or more.

But it’s Oakland County, MI - esp. the Keego Harbor/Orchard Lake area - that remains as my favorite locale in the US.  And it’s true what Nathan says about the suburban Detroit area because it reiterates what Mike Ilitch has often said:  I’d put up the schools and suburbs of Detroit against anybody’s in the country.”

It’s superb.

Posted by SYF from Twerkin' with Anastasia Ashley on 02/22/11 at 06:40 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Hey Pittsburgh Fell apart in the late 70’s & 80 because of the Steel Industry collapse, They have remade themselves into a Medical & Computer Technology center, So Detroit has a Chance !

it was decimated by The Auto Industry probably worse than Pittsburgh was way back when !!  I think the Problem with Winnipeg is it’
s Location in other words nowhere near anything & the real Cold & snowy winters

Posted by Evilpens on 02/22/11 at 06:41 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

Posted by Evilpens on 02/22/11 at 03:41 PM ET

Well, I actually agree with you for once! smile On all your points.

I have to defer to George regarding Winnipeg. I have never been there. But geographically speaking, even if Winnipeg offered the accommodations of a city like New York, you can see why it wouldn’t be popular. The difficult winters, combined with no proximity to any other major area are probably not very attractive.

Fact is, most population centers in North America are on the coasts, so cities like Winnipeg, St. Louis, Denver, and Phoenix are probably always going to have difficulty being attractive destinations for athletes. If you’re an NHLer from Ontario or Quebec (there’s a couple guys that fit this criteria smile), where would you rather play, Winnipeg, or Michigan/Ohio/Pennsylvania/New York? I think the answer is pretty clear, just based on proximity to home.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 02/22/11 at 07:16 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

See Nathan there is always a Chance LOL

Posted by Evilpens on 02/22/11 at 07:50 PM ET


The notion that players don’t want to go to Atlanta because they might move to Winnipeg is absurd on its face.

The reason players don’t want to go to Atlanta is that Atlanta sucks, they’ve sucked their entire existence, and there’s every indication that they will suck forever.  The Islanders aren’t a candidate for imminent relocation, and I highly doubt anyone wants to go there.

Same deal with Edmonton, or Columbus, or any of the other perennially bottom-feeding teams in the NHL.  Were players begging to go to Phoenix while they were finishing 10th or worse in the West?  Was there a long line of UFAs wanting to go to San Jose when they entered the league and winning 15 games a year?  Or Pittsburgh when they were one of the worst teams in the NHL?

Of course not.  If the Winnipeg Thrashers or Winnipeg Islanders or Winnipeg Coyotes or Winnipeg Panthers or Winnipeg Avalanche or Winnipeg Blue Jackets were in the playoffs pretty often and were a generally competitive franchise year in and year out they wouldn’t have any problem drawing players to sign there.

If they stunk they’d be in the same boat all those other teams are.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 02/22/11 at 09:22 PM ET


I really hope they’re called the Winnipeg Islanders.

Even if the NY Islanders don’t move to Winnipeg.

Posted by Garth on 02/23/11 at 01:30 AM ET


Dustin Penner-Jonathan Toews-Scott Glennie
Patrick Sharp-Travis Zajac-Darren Helm
Alex Steen-Andrew Murray-Eric Fehr
Colton Orr-Aaron Asham-Jody Shelley

Cam Barker-Duncan Keith
Aaron Rome-Ian White
Derek Meech-Alex Plante

Posted by Unicorn Force from DC (but like everyone here, I'm not a local) on 02/23/11 at 03:03 AM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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