Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Welcome back, Winnipeg: Some thoughts

Now that it's officially official, some thoughts on the NHL's return to Winnipeg:

  • About friggin' time.  As sad as I am for the few, the proud, the diehard Atlanta hockey fans, I'm really, really happy for the Winnipeggers who never gave up hope that the NHL would return after their team was ripped away from them 15 years ago.  (Disclaimer: I still have a Jets jersey in my closet.)
  • Speaking of that jersey: for the love of God, call them the Jets.  Manitoba Moose screams "minor league", and every other name I've seen suggested just doesn't ring with me.  The Jets are what the majority of people seem to want.  So what if the Coyotes own the Jets name?  The NHL owns the Coyotes, so don't you think something can be worked out there?  Until they announce the official name, though, I'm going with Joe Yerdon's suggestion.  Zombie Jets it is!
  • I don't want to hear that the league failed Atlanta.  No, Atlanta failed the league.  Some will argue that the fans didn't come because the Thrashers were never successful, but lack of success is a convenient excuse that is often hid behind while other, more important issues are ignored. For instance, the Columbus Blue Jackets have never won a playoff game either, yet over a ten-season span starting with 2000-01 have averaged nearly 2,000 more fans per game on a year-by-year basis. Atlanta, to me, simply appears to be a city that is much more receptive to college sports than pro.  Every pro team in Atlanta - even the mega-successful Braves, who famously don't sell out playoff games - has had its attendance issues at one time or another.  Sure, the Atlanta Spirit Group may have been the worst ownership group in the history of sports, but what prospective Thrashers owner would look at a half-empty Philips Arena and say "Yeah, I want me some of that"?   Considering the attitude toward hockey in Atlanta has never been more than lukewarm, do you blame anyone for not thinking the Thrashers would ever be profitable in Atlanta?  Talk about Atlanta's market size and potential all you want, but those things don't matter if the people aren't receptive.  The fact remains that hockey has now failed twice there, and it's not just because the team sucked.  (And don't get me started on what the Thrashers reported as attendance: the eyeball test routinely suggested that the actual number of butts in seats was at least 2,000 less than what was reported on any given night.  Having been to two well-attended games in Columbus and one sparsely attended game in Atlanta, I'm fairly confident by my admittedly small sample size of empirical evidence that the Jackets aren't fudging anything.)
  • Realignment, in my mind, is simple if thought about in geographic terms: move the Zombie Jets to the Northwest to play alongside their closest geographic rival, the Minnesota Wild.  Move the Predators, the closest team in the West to Atlanta, to the Southeast.  To make room for Winnipeg in the Northwest we can move the Avalanche to the Pacific, allowing the NHL to fix one of the most egregious mistakes in geographic alignment: getting the Dallas Stars over to the Central so that all of their division rivals aren't two timezones away.  That has to be incredibly aggravating to Stars fans to have to stay up until 11:30 or 12am to watch most in-division road games. Obviously I'm not the first person to come up with this idea, but if the NHL insists on having geographically named divisions, I think it's the best.
  • Looks like we can add another team to the pile of clubs looking for a #1 goaltender next season, eh Mr. Bryzgalov? (Ed. Note: Massive brain fart, as I mixed up the two teams who have been rumored to move north.  The Thrashers are going, and Bryzgalov's current team, the Coyotes, are staying put.  My bad.)
These are just my own thoughts - feel free to agree, disagree, or print out and use as fishwrap.  Your call, readers!


  1. A few points (some of which you and I have already discussed elsehwere, but maybe there's someone reading this that isn't a Facebook friend/Twitter follower of yours):

    - If the team isn't going to maintain the Jets name (and Bettman said the name *is* available), the next best choice, and perhaps the only other one that makes sense, is the Falcons. The Moose name worked for the AHL; it's not an NHL name.

    - The only thing I'd change with your realignment plan is to move Vancouver to the Pacific (since the city of Vancouver actually, you know, sits on the Pacific Ocean) rather than Colorado. This also cuts down on the 5pm road games for Vancouverianites, which I'd imagine are a mild inconvenience.

    - Good Lord, is the league screwed if the Coyotes lose their last stand in the desert and move to Quebec City. I've spent a fair amount of down time yesterday thinking about it, and I can't think of a single realignment plan with Winnipeg and Quebec City that doesn't involve moving one of Pittsburgh, Buffalo or Toronto to the Western Conference. That's the problem with geographic divisions on a continent where the majority of large population centers are in the east...

  2. In light of that history lesson, Falcons would be a great name. Love it.

    Moving Vancouver to the NW would be a possibility, I'd only be against it because of the Vancouver-Edmonton and (especially) Vancouver-Calgary rivalries. Not that they couldn't continue in separate divisions, but I'm not sure it's best to break that up. Then again, if the 'Yotes move next year, they'd probably have to move them anyway. I do like geographic divisions, but you're right, sometimes it is a real pain to maintain them.

  3. I meant moving Vancouver to the Pacific, obviously. My bad.

  4. The Winnipeg Warriors might also make sense: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winnipeg_Warriors_%28minor_pro%29

  5. "Warriors" isn't a terrible name. It just sounds a little generic.

    And a bit of hindsight on the Falcons name - would that be interpreted as another slap in Atlanta's face?

  6. You're probably right, it could be a slap. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?