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Opinion

Stanley Cup contender better than two-buck hot dog

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets' Tyler Myers, Nikolaj Ehlers, Bryan Little, Mathieu Perreault and Josh Morrissey celebrate Little's goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during third period NHL action in Winnipeg on Tuesday, January 30, 2018. The Jets defeated the top team in the NHL 3-1.</p>

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Jets' Tyler Myers, Nikolaj Ehlers, Bryan Little, Mathieu Perreault and Josh Morrissey celebrate Little's goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during third period NHL action in Winnipeg on Tuesday, January 30, 2018. The Jets defeated the top team in the NHL 3-1.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/1/2018 (446 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

I was thinking about two-dollar hot dogs Tuesday evening as I made my way through blizzard-force winds, along with 15,000-plus other Winnipeggers, to Bell MTS Place, where the Winnipeg Jets began an unusually long 10-game homestand with a tilt against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

If you missed the news last week, the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons announced that their concession revenue soared this past season despite the fact they slashed prices during the team’s inaugural season at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where hot dogs, bottomless Coke products, popcorn, bottled water and pretzels all cost just two bucks at Falcons games this year.

Arthur Blank, the billionaire owner of the Falcons, told the New York Times that the bargain-basement concession prices were just his way of thanking Falcons fans for their unwavering loyalty and support over the years.

“I understand bringing kids to sporting events and saving up for tickets, and when you get inside you have to buy them food, and a hot dog that is $2 outside is suddenly $7 inside, and being frustrated by it,” Blank told the New York Times. “You find ways to tell fans beyond words that you really care about their interests.”

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/1/2018 (446 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

I was thinking about two-dollar hot dogs Tuesday evening as I made my way through blizzard-force winds, along with 15,000-plus other Winnipeggers, to Bell MTS Place, where the Winnipeg Jets began an unusually long 10-game homestand with a tilt against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

If you missed the news last week, the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons announced that their concession revenue soared this past season despite the fact they slashed prices during the team’s inaugural season at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where hot dogs, bottomless Coke products, popcorn, bottled water and pretzels all cost just two bucks at Falcons games this year.

Arthur Blank, the billionaire owner of the Falcons, told the New York Times that the bargain-basement concession prices were just his way of thanking Falcons fans for their unwavering loyalty and support over the years.

"I understand bringing kids to sporting events and saving up for tickets, and when you get inside you have to buy them food, and a hot dog that is $2 outside is suddenly $7 inside, and being frustrated by it," Blank told the New York Times. "You find ways to tell fans beyond words that you really care about their interests."

That kind of talk will be greeted as heresy by Blank’s fellow billionaire sports team owners, who have long said all the right things about their respective fan bases — ‘Our fans are the best. No, really, I mean it." — while simultaneously treating them as cash machines, gouging them for every last dime.

Now, you could argue, I suppose, that it’s easy to be generous when you’re the guy who co-founded Home Depot and you’re worth, according to Forbes magazine, US$4.3 billion. Blank could give away hot dogs to Falcons fans for the next decade and it wouldn’t make a dent in his personal fortune.

But then so, too, could Jets co-owner David Thomson — and the Jets charge a princely ten bucks for their signature ‘Jumbo Jets Dog’ at Bell MTS Place.

Thomson is worth roughly six times what Blank is worth, presiding over a family fortune estimated at $27.8 billion, which Forbes says makes him the 24th richest man in the world — and the richest in Canada, by a mile.

And it just so happens, by serendipitous coincidence, that on a day Jets fans were braving unusually bitter weather even by Winnipeg’s lowly January standard, Thomson was getting even richer back in Toronto from Tuesday’s news that the Blackstone Group is in talks to buy 55 per cent of the financial division of Thomson Reuters, at a valuation of about $20 billion.

David Thomson owns roughly 400 million shares in Thomson Reuters, making it his family’s biggest single holding. News of the Blackstone deal sent those shares soaring on Tuesday, up $3.78, or 7.1 per cent.

Do the math and David Thomson’s family fortune swelled by $1.5 billion during the course of business on Tuesday. That’s a pretty good day at the office — and it would buy a whole lot of discounted hot dogs for Jets fans on a bitter January night.

But don’t hold your breath. Thomson’s late billionaire father, Ken Thomson — who once owned this grand newspaper — was an infamous miser who (true story) was still buying day-old bread to save a few cents long after he had amassed enough money to buy a bread company of his own.

The kid, from all accounts, is very much his father’s tight-fisted son. And so if you’re a Jets fan waiting for your two-dollar hot dog just because Thomson hit the jackpot Tuesday, you’re going to go hungry.

And yet, in another way, Thomson, local partner Mark Chipman and the rest of the True North ownership are paying back Jets fans for their suffering and loyalty in a more meaningful way this season: on the ice, instead of at the concession stand.

Your two-dollar hot dog is a hockey team that is the envy of the entire country right now.

By any measure, this is the Jets team we’ve all been waiting for since that heady day in the spring of 2011 that Chipman strode to the podium and announced the NHL was back in River City.

They’re young, talented and infinitely likeable. They score goals by the bucket full. They’ve got a solid defensive corps with a grit to them that seems to thrive on adversity. They’re getting all-star goaltending. They’ve got a seemingly infinite amount of depth, which has allowed them to not only survive but thrive through a recent spate of injuries. They’ve got a captain making a long-shot bid for a Hart Trophy, with 35 points in his last 22 games.

And, more than halfway through this NHL season, they’ve got the third-best record in the NHL and have rendered the once unthinkable — a Stanley Cup parade down Portage Avenue — into the actually foreseeable.

What would that look like? Well, it would probably look a whole lot like it did at Bell MTS Place Tuesday night, only drunker.

In what can only be described as a measuring-stick game, the Jets went head-to-head with a Lightning team that has been the best team in hockey all season. Winnipeg not only didn’t look out of place, they were the better team by a significant measure for most of the night.

The Jets outshot the Lightning 37-24, they outscored the Lightning 3-1 and, if these two teams should meet again in June, they served a message to the Lightning: don’t be surprised if the road to the Stanley Cup goes through Winnipeg this year.

You’ve got to give Thomson, Chipman and the rest of True North a lot of credit for the success we’re now seeing on the ice. Through a combination of shrewd management and a bit of good old-fashioned luck, a team that has never won a playoff game is suddenly a bona fide Stanley Cup contender.

When they’ve spent, it’s been wisely. Mark Scheifele for eight years at US$6.125 million a season is a steal. Ditto Nikolaj Ehlers for seven years at US$6 million per season.

And there’s probably more spending to come. Whether this team will be a major player at next month’s trading deadline seems doubtful, but the Jets have about US$6 million in salary cap space to add, say, a playoff veteran and/or some left side defensive depth if they choose.

Chipman is on the public record as saying the franchise could spend to the cap limit when the right time comes. You have to wonder if that time is now.

Two-dollar hot dogs at Bell MTS Place? Sure, that’d be nice.

But a Stanley Cup would be nicer. And probably more likely.

email: paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @PaulWiecek

Paul Wiecek

Paul Wiecek
Reporter

Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.

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