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Is Winnipeg Ready For The NHL?

from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,

Chicago. Philadelphia. Boston. Vancouver.

Four of the largest, wealthiest, most aggressive sports markets in North America, all represented by their local hockey franchises in the past two Stanley Cup finals.

Into this uber-competitive mix re-enters Winnipeg, a city big enough that U2 played on the weekend at Canad Inns Stadium, and a city small enough that the spectacular prices being extorted by ticket scalpers/companies for this week’s Stanley Cup final, some in excess of $1,500 per ticket, should scare the hell out of its citizens.

You have to wonder; does The ’Peg really know what it’s getting into here?

continued

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

Comments

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

conspiracy proven damien, thank you.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 05/30/11 at 11:28 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Yes, Damien, they know. Winnipeg will be the NHL’s equivalent, market-wise, of Green Bay—though Winnipeg is actually bigger than Green Bay—and you can sure as bet that after what’s gone on in Phoenix, neither the team’s potential owners nor the NHL are going to make this happen unless their financial projections indicate that the Winnipeg team will not find itself in the same situation it was 15 years ago 5 or 10 years from now.

Even the NHL isn’t that stupid.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 05/31/11 at 12:46 AM ET

Avatar

Just a note on Green Bay George.  Even though it is smaller than Winnipeg, you need to remember that most of it’s fan base are actually from Milwaukee, Madison, Racine and Appleton, and they don’t mind driving one bit.  I’m not sure if Winnipeg has much support around like that or not, though I’d bet you do having lived there.

Posted by Dahrken from Grand Rapids, MI on 05/31/11 at 11:37 AM ET

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Green Bay is an unfair comparison in my estimation, because in the NFL you only play eight home games per year, almost never less than a week apart. As long as you’ve got enough people living within two or three hours of your stadium (Milwaukee; 1.7 million metro; Madison, 500k metro; Appleton, 350k metro; Green Bay itself, 280k metro) you’ll have no problem selling out. The Packers are also a unique exception in pro sports because they are community owned and run not-for-profit—and, according to the articles of the club’s formation, any profit from a sale of the team (after expenses) must be donated to charity. So there’s no business advantage to selling, either.

Winnipeg, on the other hand, would be hosting 41 home games per year. The capital region is only about 700k, and if you figure your season ticket holders are only going to come from areas within an hour or so of the arena, your base isn’t getting much bigger than that.

Consider that my home city (Grand Rapids, MI) has a metro region (four counties) slightly larger than Winnipeg’s metro, and is the principal anchor of a combined statistical area (seven counties) of 1.3 million—slightly more than the entire population of Manitoba. It wouldn’t be outrageous to think of hockey fans driving in to GR from Holland or Muskegon 2-3 times per week for a game. Can you say the same of, say, people from Brandon (2.5 hours from Winnipeg) to the Peg?

I’m not saying Grand Rapids would be as successful an NHL market as Winnipeg—we like hockey in West Michigan, but certain not to the extent of Manitobans.

I’m just using it to demonstrate how small Winnipeg really is, and tough it’ll be to sustain a franchise there. If they want to sell, say, 12,000 season tickets, that represents more than 1/60 of total population of the capital region.

If Winnipeg couldn’t sustain itself in the mid-90s, how is it going to compete now that the costs of running a team are so much higher?

I’m only asking the question. I’d love to see a team in Winnipeg thrive, and there is some hope (for example, Calgary and Edmonton have not only stabilized but thrived, and they’re each only 50 percent or so bigger than Winnipeg). But yeah, the longer I think about it, the lower my hopes and expectations become.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 05/31/11 at 11:43 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Even the NHL isn’t that stupid.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 05/30/11 at 11:46 PM ET

I’m an optimist and even I’m not that optimistic.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 05/31/11 at 11:58 AM ET

Avatar

This isn’t about whether the NHL is stupid or not, it’s about the league having *no other options*.

Posted by dzuunmod on 05/31/11 at 12:41 PM 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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