So on Friday I’m doing my normal morning routine which consists of checking my email, planning my day, and thinking about what time it’s acceptable to drink a beer. Like most days I have The Team 1260 in Edmonton on and I’m listening to The Nielson & Fraser show. Well on said morning, NHL analyst Bob Mackenzie comes on the show and said something that caught my attention. He said there’s a group of investors in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan is interested in purchasing the Phoenix Coyotes and they have contacted the NHL to discuss a possible relocation up north or investigating the chances of landing an NHL club in the future.
With apparently enough money in place to purchase an NHL franchise, and also to convert the Credit Union Centre into an NHL caliber arena (it currently hosts the WHL’s Blades and holds roughly 15,500 spectators, but has no luxury boxes or amenities that NHL arena’s have), there’s a reason to be excited. At the same time there are a lot of concerns that needs to be addressed before the NHL hands Saskatoon a franchise.
The biggest concern I’d have if I was Gary Bettman is if Saskatoon actually has the people to support an NHL team. As of the last census, the population of Saskatoon is 222,189, which ranks 21st in population of Canadian cities. Currently the league’s smallest market is in Winnipeg and their population is 663,617, which ranks 7th in Canada. So the smallest market has triple the population as Saskatoon. Thinking that Saskatoon can support an NHL team and that team be fruitful is doubtful.
Another issue is the process of getting approval for an NHL team. In spite of the fact there’s a group of people with deep pockets in Saskatoon, getting approval from the NHL Board of Governors for a franchise isn’t like signing up to join your high school debate team. It’s a rigorous process that a city must go through before even being considered as an expansion/relocation destination. Winnipeg had to jump through hoops to prove to the league they could support a team, even to the point where they had to sell season tickets BEFORE relocation approval, just to prove the fan base and support is there.
There are already a list of cities who want an NHL club. These cities are in larger markets and have already gone through most of the NHL approval. Barring major relocations or an ill-advised expansion I can’t see Saskatoon being considered for an NHL franchise before Quebec City, Seattle, Kansas City, or Hamilton. These teams have been waiting for years for the NHL and have bigger financial backers and support.
Personally I’d love to see the NHL in another small Canadian market (I have no doubt they’d do better than the Islanders currently are), but the people of Saskatoon shouldn’t be ready to throw a parade just yet. Saskatoon isn’t going to be the belle of the ball anytime soon.
I want to hear your opinion, especially those in Saskatoon. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.
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