Saskatoon NHL team not as far-fetched as some think

SHELDON KENNY

Recently, rumour has been floating around that Saskatoon may be in the running for an NHL franchise. As exciting as that would be, there have been grumblings of disapproval from those who do not think it is feasible to bring the NHL to Saskatoon — but why not?

Canada is a hockey-starved nation. We have day-long programs set aside for the NHL trade deadline, the draft lottery and pretty much any event that is even remotely related to hockey. Look at the Toronto Maple Leafs: They have sucked for as long as I can remember, yet they still sell out every night despite having the highest ticket and concession prices in the league. The fans still go crazy every time they step onto the ice (and chant for the imminent firing of at least one person on a weekly basis).

Winnipeg recently got (back) into the NHL business with the Jets. Why not Saskatoon?

Canada’s economy is doing pretty well right now, at least compared to the United States. Saskatchewan is leading our country in almost all aspects of economic growth and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. If Saskatoon was ever in the running for a franchise, now is as good a time as ever.

For starters, look at the Credit Union Centre. It has a larger capacity than the MTS Centre in Winnipeg and, if needed, it can be expanded quite easily to fit even more seats. A little maintenance would need to be done, such as making the corporate boxes “more corporate,” but that is a pretty minor renovation in the grand scheme of things.

And think of all the money an NHL franchise would bring to the city. Other teams and their supporters would be in and out of Saskatoon all the time, staying in hotels, eating and shopping. Not only that, but the players that play here would probably buy houses and move their families here.

Then think of the money an NHL team would spend around the city on all sorts of things, mainly advertising. It would be millions of dollars each year pumped into our city. On top of this, there would be openings for more jobs at the Credit Union Center, and businesses would be drawn to Saskatoon because we have a major sports team they could sponsor and use to get their company’s name out to the masses. Again, more jobs.

Then there are those who complain that they “already have a favourite team!” I just have to laugh at that. Do you think that when the Jets came back to Winnipeg this year the fans complained because their favourite team was Montreal? No, and they were probably looking for any excuse not to cheer for the Habs anyway.

Or let’s say your favorite team is the Leafs, as horrible as that may seem. Wouldn’t you love to have a mere 10-minute drive to see them play live? And what NHL fan wouldn’t go just to see Sidney Crosby or Steven Stamkos when they come to town?

But above all, can you imagine the excitement it would generate? Just like Winnipeg, the city would be in a frenzy if we got a franchise. And if the team is good and mades the playoffs or contends for a Stanley Cup, the whole city would go bananas. It would be a phenomenal atmosphere to be around, and any real hockey fans would be lying if they said they wouldn’t enjoy it.


Image: Winnipeg Jets