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Saskatoon’s mayor says the group looking to land an NHL franchise is “exceedingly serious”

Mar 2, 2012, 3:01 PM EDT


Yesterday we passed along a TSN report that a group in Saskatoon was interested in bringing an NHL franchise to the prairie city. I didn’t think much of the chances of that ever happening, leading one commenter to call me “an ignorant American.” (I am Canadian.)

Anyway, Saskatoon mayor Don Atchison was asked about the group that’s reached out to the NHL.

“They’re exceedingly serious, make no bones about that,” Atchison told the StarPhoenix. “But it doesn’t matter how serious the ownership group is. We have seen that once before when Mr. (Bill) Hunter bought the team and was ready to move it here.

“It will be up to the NHL what occurs in the end.”

“Wild” Bill Hunter tried to relocate the St. Louis Blues to Saskatoon in 1983, but the league’s board of governors nixed the move by a 15-3 vote. (“Who the hell wants to go to Saskatoon, anyway? I don’t want to be taking dogsleds to get around,” former Leafs owner Harold Ballard said.)

“I don’t think Bill Hunter’s dream has ever totally died,” Atchison said. “Some people believe there could be a team and people continuously talk about there being an NHL team here. With other centres in the United States having difficulties, it’s wonderful that the NHL and the rest of North America sees Saskatoon as a spot of interest, at least.”

Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall also weighed in on the story.

“Obviously this is very hypothetical and in early stages and sort of the stuff of rumors right now,” Wall told the Business News Network.

“But I’m pretty biased. I would wonder why the NHL’s not already in Canada’s greatest province. I think we produce more per capita NHL players than anywhere else in the country. And obviously it’s a hotbed of hockey.

“If Winnipeg can do it, I like our chances.”

Except Winnipeg’s population is 671,551 and Saskatoon’s is 222,035, and Winnipeg has a modern arena and Saskatoon doesn’t.

  1. chiadam - Mar 2, 2012 at 5:27 PM

    Saskatoon? Sure, why not. The league should also expand (and, knowing Bettman, likely will) to Erie, Fargo, Death Valley, Mesa, the North Pole, Antartica, and Gainesville.

  2. rca26 - Mar 2, 2012 at 5:38 PM

    If you’re gonna do Saskatchewan, at least put it in Regina so we can all titter like schoolchildren every time the team gets mentioned on TV.

    • chiadam - Mar 2, 2012 at 5:40 PM

      The Regina Beavers!

      • firstandonlywarning - Mar 2, 2012 at 10:20 PM


  3. takingbovadasmoney - Mar 2, 2012 at 5:41 PM

    Hell, they would probably still draw better than Tampa Bay, Florida, and Phoenix.

  4. AppealToReason - Mar 2, 2012 at 5:58 PM

    Its a long shot now, but come 2020-ish I wouldn’t be surprised if they are a lot closer to the shoes Winnipeg was in the last 4 years before finally getting a team.

  5. pavelfitzgerald - Mar 2, 2012 at 7:07 PM

    I hope the Saskatchewan Premeir, or anyone for that matter, ever compares Saskatoon to Winnipeg again.
    As I said yesterday, it’s ignorant to mock this or automatically squash it. I’m not saying they should, or it would work, I’m just saying don’t automatically deny it.
    Having said that, the Saskatoon to Winnipeg reference is only valid given the arena size. But as Jason pointed out – Winnipeg had an NHL caliber arena ready & Saskatoon doesn’t.
    Lastly people who bash the writers for their nationality are idiots, everyone here likes hockey & is passionate about it, nationality is irrelevant

  6. ikillchicken - Mar 2, 2012 at 7:57 PM

    Just throwing this out there:

    Assuming a NHL rink seats roughly 18,000 people, you would need at least 1 out of every 12 people in the entire city of Saskatoon to show up in order to sell out.

    So there’s that.

    • kitshky - Mar 3, 2012 at 12:52 PM

      Yep … and it’s a shame because that province is full of some of the most passionate and knowledgeable hockey fans in the country. As a lifelong (proud) resident of Vancouver, I’d give my left n*t to have Rogers Arena filled with the kind of fans you’ll find in pretty much any pub in SK.

      (instead of them just filling BC Place Stadium every Riders game…)

  7. atwatercrushesokoye - Mar 2, 2012 at 8:46 PM

    What kind of Irishman wrote this article? Just kidding!

  8. blomfeld - Mar 2, 2012 at 10:07 PM

    “Winnipeg has a modern arena and Saskatoon doesn’t” …

    Well the writer of this article would be well advised to appreciate the fact that Saskatchewan has potash, uranium, gold, wheat, nickel, barley, oil, natural gas, etc … you name it and they’ve got it in “massive” amounts. Given our glutenous appetite as a species for “ever” more, a place like Saskatchewan is the “future” indeed, make no mistake about it ! So the issue of a sick and “financially-ailing” US based team relocating to Saskatoon or Regina is no longer a question of “if” … but rather “when” ?

    • firstandonlywarning - Mar 2, 2012 at 10:32 PM

      After QC, Seattle, Hamilton and maybe KC, Regina has a chance at a club sooner than people realize..

      There is money and Provincial interest, and know what there is to do in Regina?
      Not too much, people would be more than willing to spend their money on the NHL, and I have little to no doubt season ticket sales would kick the dung out of what we see in some places.

      This is the Green Bay Packer thing, spare me the 11 games vs 41 games a season argument. Packer tickets cost much more than hockey.
      The issue is the % of people willing to spend X number of their dollars on sporting entertainment.

      Regina does nothing for the NHL in TV deals, but Regina can support a team.

      • atwatercrushesokoye - Mar 2, 2012 at 10:56 PM

        Both should try to get AHL teams first, prove you can support them and then start talking about being able to support an NHL team. I also have my doubts on the ability to attract 8% of the city to the arena each night to fill it.

      • firstandonlywarning - Mar 3, 2012 at 2:46 AM

        People do not get excited about AHL franchises and commit money in to season tickets like the real deal.

        And then what happens to the AHL team when the city gets an NHL team? They will need to relocate?

        And what % of Green Bay city and metro area goes to Packer games? Ill tell you nearly 40%.

        Lambeau holds 73k and Green Bay and the surrounding area is 300k

      • kitshky - Mar 3, 2012 at 1:01 PM

        @firstandonlywarning. First of all … yes they do, Winnipeg supported the Moose better than most NHL cities support their club. That’s exactly what SK cities should do, and the fans would frng love it.

        Second of all, I’m so tired of hearing people bring Green Bay into this discussion. The NHL is not the NFL. The only reason Green Bay, and every other small market team, has any chance at a Superbowl is because of Revenue Sharing and the money shared from big market teams.

        Without revenue sharing there’d be a couple dominant franchises and the rest would be scrapping it out for the participation ribbons. (Think nearly every other team in baseball). Let’s not pretend Aaron Rogers would agree to play for league minimum at GB after winning the Superbowl and not agree to a monster deal with a major market team.

        Id love a team in SK but let’s be serious, there’s no way in hell that fits anywhere into the NHL’s business plan.

      • firstandonlywarning - Mar 3, 2012 at 1:25 PM

        I couldnt care less how sick you are about hearing about Green Bay. You fail at understanding that in some places there are rabid fans who have little to spend their money on, and if you build it they will come.

        “The only reasons they have a chance is because of revenue sharing from big market teams”
        Is this a joke?
        The team has sold out every game since the 50’s
        Team team has offered 35,000 season tickets in a stadium that holds 73,000, and sold every one.
        The team has a 70,000+ person waiting list for season tickets
        In an area that has 300,000 people

        Yes yes teams who sell out every game for 60 years certainly would be in BIG trouble without revenue sharing.

        And theAaron Rodgers comment is just perfect to sum up your simplistic and child-like understanding of business and sport.

        And again what happens to that AHL team when the NHL comes to down?
        It DIES

        You’re ANOTHER person who thinks they know more than Bob McKenzie and millionaire business people actually connected to the situation.

        And you know who else doesn’t fit into the NHL’s Business Plan?
        Any team in QC, Winnipeg and Edmonton and or Calgary

        Know who did? Glendale and Atlanta

        Too bad they never figured the was little interest in those place and there was too much competition for peoples entertainment dollar.

        Which is were the GB and Regina comparison comes in, no competition from other leagues in a market that will embrace a team like family.

        Regina only making 150k profit is a better business play than losing 15 million in Glendale last I checked.

      • kitshky - Mar 3, 2012 at 1:52 PM

        Hey pal … calm down.

        I was saying I’d love a team in SK and if you read my comment earlier up the thread you’d realize that I agree there are rabid hockey fans in the city. I was saying the NHL is a joke when it comes to this topic and that’s the reason why it won’t work, exactly why (for differenet reasons) it hasn’t worked in places in Glendale. The NHL’s head office is a sh*tshow.

        As for your dismissal of the NHL having 42 games verus the NFL’s 11 game schedule, that’s about as a simplistic approach to the argument as you can get. There’s a huge difference between 11 weekend “events” and yet another Tuesday night game against Columbus. The simple economics of todays NHL are miles apart from the NFL’s.

        What in the world would be wrong with SK cities getting AHL teams … because if they eventually (in a decade or so) got an NHL franchise they’d have to relocate!? Come on. Saying they’re not “the real deal” kinda makes you seem like an NHL fan over a hockey fan …but I digress.

        My tickets cost me $156 a game so let’s not get too hasty on the “NFL tickets are way more than NHL tickets”

        I’m not saying I know more than Bob Mckenzie, I have an educated opinion like a lot of other people in this country. I happen to spend a lot of time in SK for work so it’s not like I’m completely ignorant of the Province. I don’t know more than Bob Mckenzie just as you don’t know more than other pundits who feel the same way I do.

        The NHL is always going to value the marketing leverage they think can come from a major US television market over whether or not one franchise is more profitable than another.

        But again dude, I wasnt insulting anyone. Nothing would be cooler than seeing SK fans rocking an NHL arena … I’m just saying, the way the NHL is run today (whether you agree with how it’s run or not) it aint happening anytime soon.

      • firstandonlywarning - Mar 3, 2012 at 2:12 PM

        Im not the one who summed everything suggested by people in the know with…
        “lets be serious” when talking about a team in Regina

        “lets be serious” is a complete and utter dismissal of the idea

        Which is foolish

      • kitshky - Mar 3, 2012 at 2:19 PM

        “let’s be serious” is what you’re upset about … seriously? Let’s revisit the context for a second;

        “Id love a team in SK but let’s be serious, there’s no way in hell that fits anywhere into the NHL’s business plan.”

        If you think the NHL’s business plan seriously includes Saskatoon you’re out to lunch. That’s all I was saying.

  9. firstandonlywarning - Mar 2, 2012 at 10:39 PM

    If I had my druthers someday we would see a team in Hamilton and QC
    The Yotes to Seattle
    The Panthers to Regina
    And the Ducks would be on notice and Portland would be on deck
    Sorry KC

  10. creek0512 - Mar 6, 2012 at 1:27 AM

    Why not put an NHL team in Ft. Wayne, 3 times the size of Saskatoon. Oh yeah, because that’s stupid. Seattle, Kansas City, Quebec City, Milwaukee with new arenas are where the NHL should be looking to move teams.

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