Atlanta Thrashers fans Nicholas Cooper (L-R), Greg Cooper and Jennifer Mann stand behind a sign quoting NHL commissioner Gary Bettman during a rally organized to keep the Atlanta Thrashers hockey team from being sold and moved out of the city in Atlanta, Georgia, May 21, 2011. The NHL denies a report that the team has been sold and relocating to Winnipeg but other media sources state the deal has been done and an announcement will be made on Tuesday.
Credits: (REUTERS/Tami Chappell)
BOSTON - If you're interested, and I don't know why you would be, in how vile, ridiculous and blinded with rage some Canadian hockey fans can be, try pointing out how the loss of Atlanta and the addition of Winnipeg is not a positive development for the National Hockey League.
I have had my sexual orientation and intelligence questioned, been invited to have my teeth punched out at the corner of Portage and Main ("ull be sippin' juice from a straw for a long time...woman!") been accused of practising yellow journalism and being a moron, a "douch," and a "(bleeping) scab," (?) and warned I will be "audited."
I have been told a perfect world would be a 12-team NHL, with all the teams in Canada, and that "TSN, Sportsnet and the CBC would pay double for an all-Canadian league."
You know how they have those breathalyzers in cars, so if you're drunk the car won't start?
Can they put those on computer keyboards?
I have been accused of being a hater, an American worshipper and "somebody who finds clouds in every silver lining."
I'd like to think what am is a bit of a realist.
My point about the Thrashers franchise moving north to Winnipeg is only this: failing to have the NHL work in the eighth largest TV market in the U.S. -- for whatever reason (Atlantans don't like hockey, the team was victimized by bad ownership, Atlanta is just a bad sports town: take your pick) -- and having to retreat to the eighth-largest urban market in Canada, is a step back for the NHL.
It's not a personal slam on Winnipeg.
Part of this job is sometimes not just saying what everybody wants to hear. Sure, many Canadians are getting all pink and squishy about another NHL team north of the 49th parallel and how this is great for hockey in Canada.
Apart from the good folks of Winnipeg, does it really impact any of the other Canadian cities? Of course not, but we can feel like we have a little greater ownership of the game we love at its top level.
Some might argue Canadian fans would rather see the Winnipeg Falcons coming into Rexall Place or the Bell Centre or the rink in Vancouver rather than the Atlanta Thrashers. Probably.
But is that going to sell more tickets? In every Canadian city, except for Ottawa, every ticket has been sold since the lockout, so there's no uptick coming there.
Television? Does having Winnipeg in the mix do anything to boost the ratings for the CBC or TSN or Sportsnet?
I'd argue that if the good people of Winnipeg and Manitoba are the great hockey fans that I believe they are, they are already glued to their televisions when the rich guys are chasing pucks. I bet there's a good chance the increase in ratings in the regular season is going to be minimal, meaning the NHL isn't going to be able to charge any more for rights and the networks aren't going to have a bonanza when it comes to squeezing their advertising accounts for more lettuce.
I'm just talking the business of hockey here, not the maple leaf, Stompin' Tom or the old picture of the Queen.
My intention isn't to rip on Winnipeg (from a business standpoint, there are other people willing to do that). My point is, given a choice between having NHL hockey be successful in Atlanta or Winnipeg, the league would have been better off having the success story in Atlanta.
Better yet, be successful in both places.