Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Welcome home, Winnipeg Jets

The Winnipeg Jets are returning to the NHL.  There still are some hoops that need to be jumped through, namely approval by the NHL Board of Governors but it looks like it's pretty much a done deal.  Mark Chipman and David Thompson, with True North Sports and Entertainment have, just hours ago, finalized the purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers franchise.  The new franchisees are hoping to get 13,000 season ticket holders by the time the BoG meet on June 21.  Personally, I think this is a bit of a lofty (though not at all unachievable) goal as the seating capacity in ice formation at the MTS Centre is just over 15,000 but the ticket prices are quite comparable to that of the Ottawa Senators, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers.  My concern with have so many season ticket holders is that it will make it exceedingly difficult for those who can't afford season tickets to purchase (through legal means) tickets for the odd game here and there, thus causing them to feel a bit disenfranchised.  We're seeing that a lot here in Vancouver.  Because there are so many seasons ticket holders, and the wait lists for them are insanely long, the franchise owners know that the market can bear an exorbitantly high price tag for the remaining tickets.  As a result, the "true" fans of the sport are left watching the game at home or at the bar, while the corporate types take whoever they're trying to sell something to to the games and just click away on their smartphones while top grade hockey is unfolding right in front of them.  What do you mean, "you sound bitter?"  I have no idea what you're talking about *wink* 

Getting back on topic.  Obviously, Winnipeg residents are over the moon but I would like to think the rest of Canada, and serious hockey fans everywhere are equally as excited; I know my partner is probably doing jumping jacks right now (in his head, as I texted him at work to let him know about this announcement).  The idea of another NHL team coming out of the country that invented the sport pleases me greatly, and the Jets were a tremendous franchise.  People are now wondering, "Where will the next Canadian franchise be?"  Gary Bettman (for those uninitiated folks, he's the commissioner of the NHL.  Loved by all.  Yup.) seems increasingly loathe to even consider the idea of possibly speculating the potential of another Canadian team, but that's his MO really.  In the press conference today, he was asked if the possibility of Quebec City getting an NHL franchise once more was worth mentioning and he looked almost angry at even having to justify that with an answer.  After hedging for a few sentences, he basically answered with (I'm paraphrasing here), "Don't get your hopes up."

To Bettman I say, "Screw you, I'm getting my hopes up!" What is so wrong with wanting more Canadian franchises in a Canadian sport?  What's so wrong with wanting to find ways of stimulating our economy by creating jobs and driving tourism the way hockey towns (Phoenix and Atlanta being the exception, but they're not really hockey towns.  Let's get real here.) have been known to do?  I, personally, would love to see an NHL team in Saskatoon or in the Maritimes.  I don't want to see yet another team in Ontario.  They have two, and both are a bit of a joke these days.  I want to see an NHL team in a province where the majority of it's citizens have never had the opportunity to see a live NHL game and who feel like the likelihood of a team showing up in their province is about as probable as a black presi....wait, that's been done!

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