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(Shaun Best)
(Shaun Best)

Is Winnipeg a viable NHL market? Add to ...

The NHL owners do not want to go back to Winnipeg but they will if the only alternative is losing more money, which means Bettman is down to weeks to pull this off. And don't think the six Canadian teams will fall all over themselves to roll out the Welcome Home signs. The Winnipeg Jets 2.0 means the national Canadian broadcast revenue will, at some point (I'm sure part of the deal will be the Jets won't get any for a while), be divided by seven rather than six.

What makes a good hockey market is not the willingness of the fans to buy tickets when the team is winning, as too many of those connected to the Coyotes embarrassment think. What makes a good hockey market is the willingness of the fans to do so when the team is playing .500 hockey or worse.

A move from one of the best places to live in North America during the winter to one of the worst is not going to result in a group of enthusiastic players, at least not in the first few years, so do not expect the recent on-ice success of the Coyotes to continue. There will be much unhappiness in those player households, particularly those of the married ones.

It tends to be forgotten or brushed aside, although not by my esteemed colleagues, that Winnipeg fans were not always willing to pay to see the Jets play. And that was in the days of $17-million payrolls. Owners will tell you it is not what fans pay for your cheap seats that creates profits, it is what corporations and wealthy fans will pay for the luxury suites, club seats and the best tickets.

I don't think Winnipeg's corporate base is much bigger than it was 15 years ago and the city as a whole is not wealthier. This still means the city will create more revenue for an NHL team than Glendale, Ariz., but the owners will not strike gold even if the arena is expanded, something else that has to happen for the team to survive.

Local broadcast revenue will be better than it is in Phoenix, but it will never compare to the big-market teams.

Thus it comes down to the willingness of the owners to write cheques every year to pay for the losses rather than try to squeeze it out of the local yokels. Here is where Winnipeg has it all over a lot of NHL cities, so in the end I must agree, it will work as an NHL market.

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