Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Winnipeg Seeking Western Side One Way Or Another

With Jim Toth of CJOB in Winnipeg breaking the story that True North Sports and Entertainment has been in talks with an unnamed WHL team to bring them out to Winnipeg and play out of the MTS Centre, it has made people wonder how legit it could be and if it could actually work.

To counter the reports of Toth, Gary Lawless couldn't get a quote out of TNSE's spokesman Scott Brown and said that it wasn't discussed during the WHL Board of Governors meetings in Las Vegas last month, but there could be a lot of merit to the reports and wouldn't be a bad idea considering how well the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers have done with their WHL teams housed in their arenas.

While Winnipeg has been on the WHL radar for a bit, they would instantly the most Easterly team in the WHL, as it is 133 miles east of Brandon and the Wheat Kings. That would great the rivalry geographically, but overload the East Division with seven team, unless you want to break-up the Saskatchewan team, throwing one in the Central Division.

Regardless of that, the real mystery is what team was discussing, as little as it may be, with TNSE to move to Winnipeg. For me, there's really only one option and that's the Prince George Cougars. When you look at the team, they haven't been the best when it comes to the attendance figures (steadily down since 2000-01), the team hasn't been the best product on the ice (especially with captain Alex Forsberg wanting off the team and not getting it), as well as them being pretty far out there when it comes to traveling, which would strain the budget of the owners just a bit. This year, the Cougars have only had four of their 30 games have had over 2,000 people in attendance in the 5,582 seat CN Centre in Prince George.

Outside of Prince George, I can't think of another team that would be in the market for moving out of their region, mostly because they are set-up nicely and actually having a better than status quo season when it comes to their attendances. At least, no one has been outwardly concerned with their attendance figures in the WHL.

Yet, even though TNSE said almost a year ago that they weren't interested in a WHL club, they seemed to have turned the corner with the lockout and not seeing hockey at the MTS Centre. Also, they probably wanted to gauge the return of the NHL and surveying the fan base in order to see what kind of interest they would have in order to forge ahead with any kind of plans.

It hasn't happened yet and may take some time, but I think the WHL would wanted the presence in Winnipeg for their Eastern crowd and make their league more profitable. With teams succeeding in three NHL markets already (the two previously mentioned and Vancouver), adding a fourth that could be successful would be another notch in the WHL belt.

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