Saturday, May 16, 2009

Where's the Groundswell of Support for an NHL Team?

Over the last couple of years I have been happy, amused, delighted, and even tickled pink over Jim Balsillie's attempts to buy us an NHL team.

But let's face it, we shouldn't be thinking that Balsillie can do it alone. Hockey fans in southern Ontario need to stand up and throw some muscle behind this cause. Whether it's Waterloo, Hamilton or somewhere else, we can't just expect to be handed a team without working for it.

Our sports commentators aren't helping the movement by throwing misinformation into the public discourse. The biggest canard so far: the NHL is preventing another southern Ontario team only to protect the Maple Leafs.

Pulleeze... This is not just about southern Ontario. Only six out of 30 teams are in Canada, a proportion that is far far less than the percentage of fans or players who come from this country. There's no team in Quebec City or Winnipeg either. The NHL strategy is to increase TV viewers by putting teams in places that don't like hockey; people in southern Ontario are going to watch hockey regardless, is the argument, so we don't need a team. Of course that's hooey as well, as more people in southern Ontario will watch hockey if we had another team.

So come on hockey fans: do something.



WesternGrit said...

Good post.

I can't bring myself to ever watch a game involving Southern US teams (Phoenix, Nashville, Florida, TB, Carolina). Now hockey DOES belong in San Jose (the Golden Seals played there in the 60s), it's always a good sell in LA (all those expat Canadians there), Columbus is a hockey town.

I (unfortunately?) don't think Southern Ontario should get the first new Canadian team (let the flaming begin...). I think that Winnipeg would be a better market, would be a natural competitor with Calgary, Edmonton, Minnesota - even Chicago. Halifax or Moncton would be another great area for hockey, and would sell out, and even Saskatchewan (the stadium's already built in Saskatoon). The population draw in Sask would be roughly 600000 to 700000 - drawing from Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, the Battlefords, Swift Current, Weyburn, and small towns and villages in-between.

I also think that Seattle and Portland BOTH need teams quickly. Vancouver NEEDS a natural competitor/rivalry that is closer than Calgary or San Jose. Both Seattle and Portland are KEY WHL cities, and would easily support NHL franchises (especially since the SuperSonics are no longer in Seattle - and the empty stadium beckons). Vancouver fans go to Mariner and SeaHawk games in the thousands, and they would definitely hit the road for "away" games - or to see their favorite team if it isn't Vancouver...

Southern Ontario should get a team - just not right away (unless - as you say - masses of fans speak up). Across the hockey hotbeds of Canada, kids are turning to soccer. Hockey is suffering - not just here, but in the USA too - as teams are getting less Canadian talent (which is the foundation of much of the NHL). Local teams in places like Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Halifax and/or Moncton would do much to create interest in youth, and get hockey growing again. There is lots of hockey in Southern Ontario.

Éric said...

Don't forget Quebec City, wich after Hamilton and along with Winnipeg, is the best place to host a team in Canada.

Éric said...

And there are fewer European NHLers than there has been in a long time.