When it comes to loving hockey, you’d be hard-pressed to find a place that embraces the sport as much as Winnipeg does. It’s a pretty typical Canadian city.
And look no further than the University of North Dakota men’s hockey team’s roster in recent years to find player after player from the ‘Peg.
The only question – if the Atlanta Thrashers really are going to move to Winnipeg – is whether or not the city has the population and corporate support necessary to support a franchise in one of the four major leagues.
It never made much sense to me to have NHL teams in climates that don’t suit hockey, like Atlanta. But I get it. They’re big cities, and even if attendance isn’t great, there’s still the corporate support that you’ll find in major markets.
Winnipeg may not have that to the extent that Atlanta does. But I have no doubt a Winnipeg team will draw better than the Thrashers did.
And I don’t think they’ll have any more trouble drawing free agents than they did in Atlanta. After all, in Winnipeg, the NHL team would be the only big show in town. Those players will be rock stars there, rather than playing second fiddle to Matt Ryan or Chipper Jones in Atlanta.
So I think it can work out. And all signs point to this Thrashers move as inevitable.
One thing’s for sure: Other smaller cities – many of which lost NHL teams in the last two decades (see Quebec City) – will be watching to see how successful the franchise can be in Winnipeg.
And I’m simply looking forward to having another NHL option just a drive away from Fargo-Moorhead.
For those who didn’t catch them, I had some “NHL to Winnipeg” copy in the sports section today. I talked to Moorhead resident Dave Christian – a former Winnipeg Jets player – about the rumors. And I penned a column after talking to a popular “Return the Jets” campaigner that once was a guest on our sports talk show we used to have on WDAY. Check out the stories.