Skip to content

Don Cherry: Saskatoon’s a viable NHL destination

Mar 10, 2012, 9:30 PM EDT

Don Cherry Getty Images

Saskatchewan is the richest province in Canada, according to Don Cherry. That was one of the arguments he used during Coach’s Corner to argue that Saskatoon, Saskatchewan is worthy of an NHL team.

In response to the smirk that’s probably on your face, Cherry went on to say that people laughed when he said that Winnipeg would get a team and sure enough, the NHL has returned to that city. However, we do see one issue with Cherry’s logic.

Winnipeg’s metropolitan area has a population of 730,018, which is small by NHL standards. Compare that to Saskatoon’s metropolitan area, which is currently home to 260,600 people according to the 2011 Census report. Although, based on figures provided by Cherry, that number balloons to 400,000 if you widen the range to 80 miles. That’s a distance that apparently “means nothing” out west, according to Cherry. So if you count everyone within 80 miles of Saskatoon and assume that a healthy chunk of them would be willing to drive that distance on a regular basis for the sake of regular season NHL hockey, the number still pales in comparison to Winnipeg. That’s not even touching things like TV ratings.

Saskatchewan certainly sounds like a tough sell to us.

  1. mrpickled - Mar 10, 2012 at 9:35 PM


  2. jmig320 - Mar 10, 2012 at 9:43 PM

    I would love to see the nhl pull several franchises out of the south & head into canada….but not in saskatoon. I’d think a return to quebec city or hamilton would be more viable options. Quebec had the nordiques, and the economic structure of the nhl is certainly better than when the nords moved to colorado.

    • eggserino - Mar 10, 2012 at 10:47 PM

      Quebec City & Hamilton. That’s about it for Canadian cities ready to support a hockey club…

      • Buffalo Grumblings - Mar 11, 2012 at 3:09 PM

        Quebec yes. Hamilton no. They are smack in the middle of Toronto and Buffalo territory. They can’t afford the indemnity money and Copps Colesium is now longer up to NHL standards.

  3. sportsfreak13 - Mar 10, 2012 at 9:44 PM

    Anybody else find it ironic that in real life grapes make wine and on TV “grapes” makes whine. All he does is whine about how Canada needs more teams. Don’t enough Canadian teams miss the playoffs as it is.

    • sportsfreak13 - Mar 10, 2012 at 11:08 PM

      hurt your feelings eh?

  4. takingbovadasmoney - Mar 10, 2012 at 10:10 PM

    Saskatoon a tough sell? Hockey in Phoenix, Florida, and Carolina is a tough sell.

    • bcisleman - Mar 10, 2012 at 11:02 PM

      Hockey actually does pretty well in Carolina.

  5. tampabayirish - Mar 10, 2012 at 10:23 PM

    Grapes is starting to lose it. I think CBC would love to see Cherry go quietly into the night and into retirement. Not likely. Love that sparkling purple pimp suit tonight. By the way, in response to an earlier poster, the Lightning draw very well in Tampa.

  6. uscthom78 - Mar 10, 2012 at 10:25 PM

    If thats a viable location, then so is montana…..NOT!!

  7. steelpenguin71 - Mar 10, 2012 at 10:36 PM

    So was Atlanta….. Twice

  8. sheckyrimshot - Mar 10, 2012 at 10:50 PM

    you can compare the population of saskatoon to other cities with an nhl franchise all you want. the important number is percentage of the population that care about hockey.

    • bcisleman - Mar 10, 2012 at 11:05 PM

      If there aren’t enough people in an area to support a team, then there aren’t enough. There were some pretty passionate fans in Atlanta…just not enough to support an NHL franchise.

    • howiehandles - Mar 11, 2012 at 1:14 AM

      The really important number is the percentage that will PAY to show that they care about hockey. I’ll all for more Canadian teams, but I can’t see such a small area filling their arena every day.

  9. takingbovadasmoney - Mar 10, 2012 at 11:42 PM

    The best attendance percentage Carolina has had over the past 5 seasons has been 88%. Most southern cities will not support a hockey team. Hockey is a regional sport and there is nothing wrong with that. Gary Bettman needs to realize that. As long as he is in charge of the NHL, Atlanta will receive another franchise before Saskatoon, Hamilton, or even Quebec City.

    • blomfeld - Mar 10, 2012 at 11:44 PM

      friend … I’ve given you a “thumbs up” which I’m not in the habit of doing around here very often :) … well said …

    • howiehandles - Mar 11, 2012 at 1:19 AM

      I agree with you to a point, although success is what usually draws. Sure, Phoenix has been solid, but they haven’t won a Cup, unlike Dallas, Carolina, and Tampa, with Florida having competed in one. For most, they’ve only drawn well during, and just after their Cup wins, Florida obviously excluded. I do agree that both Quebec and Hamilton should get teams over some of the Southern failures. It’s a joke that a team as competitive as Phoenix has been the past few years, draws as poorly as it does. Bettman really must believe the NHL fans are idiots to continue to allow that team to reside out there. It’s not healthy for the league, and an insult to fans everywhere. A smart businessman knows when to cut his losses, and move it. Retraction is probably not an option, as I’m sure the league would have to provided major concessions to get the player’s approval.

      • lostpuppysyndrome - Mar 11, 2012 at 10:35 PM

        Bettman would rather die than even consider contraction. Still, could you imagine the glut of talent that would be spread around the league that’s currently being wasted on most towns south of the ol’ Masie-Dixie line? I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

      • brucewaynewins - Mar 18, 2012 at 8:31 AM

        NHL will not contract. Craig on explained the reasons why MLB will never do it. The same reasons apply for NHL as well. It’d cost the NHL several hundred millions per team they contracted to pay out and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

  10. blomfeld - Mar 10, 2012 at 11:42 PM


    Two winters ago while golfing at a municipal course in Tucson AZ, I said to my “local” playing partners who were all really nice guys … “hey man, are you guys Coyotes fans ?” … all three of them just looked at me dumfounded at a complete loss for words, before offering me a just a “sympathetic” smile. Anyone who thinks that hockey is better served by playing it in the desert of Arizona or in the heart of the old Confederacy as opposed to Canada, is an absolute idiot ! Cherry is exactly right by stating that Saskatoon would make for a “wonderful & profitable” home for a new NHL franchise. The prairie folk on both sides of the border are “quality” in more ways tha one … and when they sign on to do something, they really sign on ! Are there enough people to “viably” support an NHL franchise in Saskatoon ? … what’s that supposed to be, a joke or something ? Of course there are ! Man, I could seriously even see “cows” lining up for season’s tickets ! All kidding aside, the sooner the game migrates back home to the north, the sooner all will be well again.

    PS American friends: you guys have your “March Madness” right now and I know for a fact that you’s be upset if the finals were to be held next year in Thunder Bay or Moose Jaw … :)

    • howiehandles - Mar 11, 2012 at 1:20 AM

      Doubt too many disagree with you, but doubt Saskatoon is getting a team anytime soon.

  11. vshehane - Mar 11, 2012 at 12:30 AM

    Hey Canadians get over yourself. You show your lack of southern hockey knowledge every day on here.

    • howiehandles - Mar 11, 2012 at 1:22 AM

      Southern hockey knowledge? Care to explain what that is?

      Doubt equate Cup wins with Southern hockey knowledge. For the most parts, the teams in the South don’t draw, minus their Cup years. Rather sad too, as they’ve had some pretty solid teams the past few years.

      • banshee950 - Mar 11, 2012 at 9:27 AM

        The south and fox tv are the two worst things that have happend to hockey in my lifetime. You simply cannot market it to people that haven’t played it. The sad result is a over marketing of fighting and the violence of the game without an understanding of the skill. I caught a game in AZ and no one paid a bit of attention to the ice unless there was a fight or tee shirts being shot over the glass. The only southern teams drawing worth a damn are the transplant cites that have large northern and Canadian wintner and full time populations.
        I don’t know Canadian cities well enough to say where, but the teams should head back north ASAP.

    • blomfeld - Mar 11, 2012 at 3:01 AM

      I’m sorry friend, but what in the hell does the following have to do with ice hockey ?

  12. acieu - Mar 11, 2012 at 5:47 AM

    Feckin whining Canadians how about A second team in Montreal and or Toronto you hoser losers.

  13. buffalomafia - Mar 11, 2012 at 10:56 AM

    With the right(real) ownership hockey belongs in Atlanta?

  14. rz84 - Mar 11, 2012 at 11:15 AM

    Here you go again Americans talking about hockey again. Atlanta had what maybe 6000 fans at there games last year? Look at the size of Atlanta and only 6000 fans a game? Pathetic. Move them back up north and there selling out 16000 every night. March madness and spring training are right around the corner, should give you idiots something to talk about in where you won’t sound like arrogant-know everything about everything Americans. Also basketball was invented by a Canadian. Just saying

    • whistler1217 - Mar 11, 2012 at 12:45 PM

      Minnesota guy here…I don’t understand the US/Canada hate on here sometimes. I love the US and Canada. BC is great, and i’m sure many other Canadian provinces/cities are as well. I would love to see a team or two head back north, and I think it will happen, just a matter of how soon. As for Saskatoon, i’m no expert but it doesn’t seem viable to me. That’d be about the equivalent of Duluth/Superior area in Minnesota/Wisconsin getting a team and that sounds kinda crazy to me.

    • Buffalo Grumblings - Mar 11, 2012 at 3:11 PM

      And softball is the national pastime in Canada. Look it up

    • mattryannolan - Mar 11, 2012 at 3:52 PM

      Canadians invented basketball cool… So should we take Toronto from you guys then? Because by your logic you guys don’t deserve it.

      • lostpuppysyndrome - Mar 11, 2012 at 10:30 PM

        PLEASE!! We’d be happy if you took Toronto! They’ve been practically begging to be annexed to the US for years now!

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Mar 16, 2012 at 3:06 AM

        No, Canadians plural did not invent basketball, one Canadian from Ontario named James Naismith invented it, while teaching in Springfield, Mass., in 1891.

  15. rainyday56 - Mar 11, 2012 at 12:17 PM


    No way Saskatoon gets a team while the C$ exists.

    • quizguy66 - Mar 11, 2012 at 1:13 PM

      When’s the last time you’ve looked up the currency exchange b/w the US and Canada?

      1 Canadian Dollars gets you $1.01 in US Currency.

      Have made that correction above, I still think that Saskatoon is way too small. Once Anchorage, Alaska gets a team we’ll talk.


      • rainyday56 - Mar 11, 2012 at 6:40 PM

        Look up $ fluctuations over the last 15 years and tell me there was never a 65 cent C$, or that dramatic changes never happened over a period of months.

      • quizguy66 - Mar 12, 2012 at 3:11 PM

        It’s a specious argument to use though. Both dollars fluctuate. You made it sound like it was current.

        Believe me, I’ve serenaded Maple Leafs fans with “your dollar’s worth a quarter” chants back in the day. But that’s not the case now.


    • kitshky - Mar 11, 2012 at 4:58 PM

      I havent’ seen such completely ignorant posts on here …ever. Saskatoon is not getting a team, we can all agree on that. It would be awesome for a team to be in SK, but it’s not gonna happen in this lifetime.

      $0.65 Canadian dollar … Softball the national past time … lacking knowledge of this so called “Southern Hockey”? Did I miss PHT handing out crazy pills this morning?

    • rupertslander - Mar 12, 2012 at 7:21 PM

      The only way the U.S. dollar will ever buy anything like C$1.60 ever again is if the Americans find a way to retrofit their car fleet so they don’t run on gasoline refined from oil sourced largely from Alberta and, ah yes, Saskatchewan.

      Which reminds me that there was a time when nobody thought Texas would ever have major sports teams. It was oil money that changed that thinking. As they say, history doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes.

  16. desertfan - Mar 11, 2012 at 12:45 PM

    Other than the fact that moving teams to Canada is going backwards from a revenue perspective for the NHL- TV etc.-money per person is important.

    I just received my 2013 renewal and playoff pkg.

    Total $20,000.

    Winnipeg will get a wake-up call if/when they ever make the playoffs.

    How many in Saskatoon could write that cheque 1,2 or 3 years in a row???

    • rupertslander - Mar 12, 2012 at 1:20 AM

      Money per person is indeed very important, and Saskatchewan just happens to have more of it than every province except Alberta and every state except Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware and Wyoming.

      Saskatchewanians are ready and willing to pay for NHL hockey. Once an NHL-caliber facility is built in Regina (which a domed Roughrider stadium could easily be designed to double as) a team could split home games between the two major cities and there is no question that venture would be viable.

  17. jefftberg - Mar 11, 2012 at 3:51 PM

    Saskatoon was big enough to be the home city of the Blues in 1983. In the past 30 years did Saskatoon get SMALLER? I think not.

  18. mattryannolan - Mar 11, 2012 at 3:57 PM

    Let’s give Canada another team sure. Lord knows they need another team so it can outside the playoffs like half the teams do. They want the Coyotes because they are their best chance to have a decent team outside of Vancouver and MAYBE Ottawa. as for teams doing well in the South I believe PHT has done a story on the success of teams in the south such as Dallas and even Carolina. I guess Americans in the south need to be more like Montreal and Toronto fans. Supports crappy teams year after year then whine all day and all night about how they aren’t better. So stop winning a Stanley Cup Dallas, Carolina, Tampa, even Colorado and Anaheim for that matter (Considering you guys consider Carolina south those two teams should be as well.) and start being more like canadian teams. Hockey has a growing passion in the south. Hockey in the south is still a relatively new idea in comparison to the teams in the north. So before we ship EVERY team that isn’t Chicago, Detroit, Boston, or the NY Rangers. Lets take a breather and let hockey grow in the south.

    • mattryannolan - Mar 11, 2012 at 4:15 PM

      Also forgot about that totally crappy team in STL. Gosh those Blues certainly need to go back up north for sure…………

  19. emperorzero - Mar 11, 2012 at 8:53 PM

    Hockey does quite well in Carolina. I still find it interesting it’s always the south teams that need to go, yet Tampa Bay and Carolina have won more Stanley Cups lately than any team from Canada. The financial state of the game works for Canada right now because the U.S. dollar isn’t worth a squirt of urine. But what happens if the disparity between currencies comes back like it did in the mid-90’s?

    I can see the arguement for relocating the Coyotes to Quebec City, but there is no way the NHL is abandoning the South for a bunch of rinky-dink cities in Canada.

    • rupertslander - Mar 11, 2012 at 11:16 PM

      Unless and unti you Americans find retrofit your fleet of cars so they run on something other than gasoline then the days of the sixty-odd cent exchange rate are gone – forever. The oilpatch in Alberta and – gasp! – Saskatchewan will see to that.

  20. rupertslander - Mar 11, 2012 at 9:03 PM

    First things first, the reason Dadoun conveniently doesn’t touch TV ratings is that would expose the fact that as a television market Saskatchewan is just as big as Manitoba, indeed Saskatchewan’s economy surpassed Manitoba’s over a decade ago and the gap is growing rapidly. Cherry was technically wrong to call Saskatchewan the richest province in Canada as it’s actually second to Alberta. But nevertheless Saskatchewan is indeed richer than 46 out of 50 states, including all states with major sports teams.

    Those points noted, what ought to go without saying in these discussions is that any NHL team in Saskatchewan would (at least eventually) play games in both Saskatoon and Regina. Given the strength of Saskatchewan’s economy, those cities together would easily punch at or above Winnipeg’s weight.

    While Regina doesn’t have an NHL-size arena yet, it will once it builds a new domed stadium for the Roughriders. You read that right, now think it through: given that there is just five feet difference between a CFL field’s width (195′) and an NHL rink’s length (200′) you don’t need a doctorate in architecture to figure out how to convert a modern, domed CFL stadium into an NHL-caliber arena during the CFL’s off-season.

  21. rainyday56 - Mar 12, 2012 at 1:46 AM

    And I’d like to point out that Super Dave is being secured by genuine SASS-ketchawan sealskin bindings. (Gawd, that never gets old!

  22. apitheous - Mar 12, 2012 at 11:46 PM

    Well you can’t have the Blues! although at the rate the purchase is progressing who knows.

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. P. Kane (1683)
  2. P. Kessel (1453)
  3. M. Richards (1208)
  4. P. Datsyuk (1072)
  5. N. Backstrom (1029)