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NHL history

Winnipeg Jets (1979-96) moved to become the Phoenix Coyotes.

Potential owners

Mark Chipman, chairman of True North Sports and Entertainment, and partner David Thomson, chairman of The Woodbridge Company Ltd, whose net worth of $19-billion makes him the wealthiest person in Canada.

Demographic snapshot

Metro Population: 741,000

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Median Household income: $58,128 (Canadian Average $59,090)

Average Household disposable income: $52,000 (Canadian Average $56,000)

Average Household net worth: $291,034 (Canadian Average $351,282)

Percentage of population aged 25-39: 21 per cent (Canadian Average 20 per cent)

Index for watching NHL Hockey on Television: 104 (Canadian average 100)

Economic snapshot

Number of Head offices: 128

Unemployment rate: 5.7 per cent (Canadian average 8.1)

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Number of businesses with 100+ employees: 520

Number of businesses with $20+ million in sales: 619

Number of businesses with 100+ employees and $20+ million in sales: 272

Population rate of growth: 1.3 per cent

GDP Growth: 2.2 per cent

Retail Sales: $9.7 Billion

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MTS Centre, located in downtown Winnipeg, opened in 2004. Seats 15,015 with 50 luxury suites.

Has going for it:

Slow but steady growth in an increasingly diversified economy. Population growth significantly stronger than when the Jets left 14 years ago. A building deemed suitable by both potential owners and the NHL. Potential ownership group with the wealth to sustain losses in down years.

Has going against it

Would be the NHL's smallest market, making more vulnerable to a downturn in the economy or a dive by the Canadian dollar. Would likely have to compete at the mid-range of between NHL's salary floor and ceiling. Number of large companies roughly half of smallest existing Canadian markets. Market has not historically always supported losing teams.

What they're saying

"We've tested using pricing that has existed in relative Canadian markets… Ottawa, Edmonton and Calgary to a lesser extent. When we test those average ticket prices, and the suite prices, and the pricing of the menu on corporate sponsorship that you need to sell, it hasn't caused any concern or alarm with any of our existing sponsors or perspective ones." - Mark Chipman, chairman, True North Sports and Entertainment.

What Gary Bettman says

"There's never been any doubt about the passion of fans, people in Winnipeg for NHL hockey … It's always been a good hockey market. If you talk to the people who are interested in having a franchise in Winnipeg now, they'll tell you compared to what's going on in the rest of North America, the economy is pretty strong and they have no doubts with the economic viability."

Professor Norm O'Reilly's Scorecard

Market Attractiveness





Market Size


Corporate presence


Overall Market Attractiveness Grade


Its economy weathered the recent recession as well as any in Canada. Characterized by slow and steady growth over the past 15 years. Winnipeg's population of three-quarters of a million is growing at about three times the rate it was when the Jets left town in 1996 and it's unemployment rate is well below the Canadian average. Its median household income is in line with the Canadian average, while the corporate presence is small but boasts more head offices than Ottawa. It citizens have shown the ability to pay for top-flight entertainment, making the MTS Centre the third-busiest building in Canada.

Franchise Viability

Potential Ownership


Arena and Location


Competition and Barriers to Entry


The MTS Centre arena has a great downtown location but with just over 15,000 seats and 50 corporate boxes it is small by NHL standards. There is competition of a smaller scale in the CFL's Winnipeg Blue Bombers and independent pro baseball's Goldeyes. Potential owners Mark Chipman and David Thomson combine a strong local presence with immense wealth.

Final Grade for Viability


Its smallish population base and corporate presence would make Winnipeg vulnerable to an economic downturn or slump in the Canadian dollar. And unlike the six existing Canadian clubs it couldn't spend to the maximum. But the commitment of ownership, new building and resilient economy make this a viable option for the NHL.

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