NHL

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Interested parties in Saskatoon' approach NHL about franchise

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SASKATOON -- The NHL has been contacted about relocating a franchise to Saskatoon, according to a published report on Thursday.

TSN's Bob McKenzie reported on the network's website that "interested parties in Saskatoon" have reached out to the league, suggesting "there are individuals or parties in Saskatoon who would be willing to ante up the required purchase fee while various levels of government in Saskatchewan would make necessary arrangements to expand and make NHL-suitable the 15,800-seat Credit Union Centre."

A source confirmed the report to Postmedia News on Thursday, saying a number of groups have approached Credit Union Centre management over the last three years about the possibility of an NHL franchise.

According to McKenzie, the interested parties "are pitching that an NHL franchise (in Saskatoon) would be supported by the entire province and it would be a viable operation."

A recent 12-part series released by the Conference Board of Canada expressed doubts over those claims.

"It would be way too early (for Saskatchewan) to start looking at the NHL," said Mario Lefebvre, co-author of the series, when the study was released last month.

The study declared the population threshold to support an NHL team is around 750,000, the market size of Winnipeg, which was recently re-awarded a franchise. Both of Saskatchewan's major cities -- Saskatoon and Regina -- are one-third that size, he noted. Other interested Canadian markets such as Hamilton, Ont., and Quebec City meet the population criteria.

"Regina and Saskatoon are not next door to one another," he said.

"As much as people are willing to drive for CFL football, we're talking about a once every two weeks and mostly on weekends. Hockey is 41 home games per year. Driving 250 km to 300 km on Tuesday nights is starting to be a stretch."

Saskatoon has had recent brushes with the NHL, including hosting a New York Islanders training camp, plus exhibition games featuring the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and Chicago Blackhawks.

In 1983, Bill Hunter came close to leading the relocation of the St. Louis Blues to Saskatoon, only to have the move blocked by the NHL.

 

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 2, 2012 C2

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