Atlanta Thrashers move to Winnipeg?

There are lots of rumors about NHL team franchise moves. Right now, it looks like the Atlanta Thrashers will end up in Winnipeg. If this goes through, then I see the Thrashers moving to the Western Conference. The new Winnipeg team would then move to the Northwest Division and Colorado would move to the Central Division or perhaps Dallas goes to the Central and Colorado goes to the Pacific. I think I prefer putting Dallas in the Central and Colorado in the Pacific.

So, which Western Conference Central division team moves to the Eastern Conference? I don’t think it will be the Red Wings. The Wings are too good of a draw on the road and NBC loves having Blackhawks/Red Wings games for the ratings.

The Columbus Blue Jackets would be a good candidate. This is another struggling team that is stuck with a brutal travel schedule. Unlike the Red Wings, the Blue Jackets don’t draw fans on the road. But, where would you put the Blue Jackets in the East? Geographically, they’re not really ‘Southeast.’ However, a few Washington Capitals games in Columbus will help draw fans. I don’t see any reasonable way to realign the Atlantic or Northeast divisions.

So, I think the most reasonable choice is to move the Nashville Predators to the Eastern Conference. They’d fit in well geographically in the Southeast. The Preds have put a good product on the ice the past few years and I can see some good games with the Preds against the Bolts/Caps.

Anyone else have a better solution?

This handy map could help the discussion (at least it helps me!)

The Detroit Red Wings would really, really like to play in the East - Babcock said so when the Habs last played them because they want to play more games against the rest of the Original Six. I don’t think it’ll happen, though, because they are a money-maker in the West and a lot of other teams need them.

I think the Predators will be more likely to move East - they fit into the spot vacated by Atlanta without having any other realignments in the eastern divisions.

I’d move the Wild to the Central to take Nashville’s place, rather than move the Avalanche out of the Northwest, but that’s pretty much just based on geography. The Northwest would be interesting; nearly all-Canadian (The Avs are still the Nordiques, right? hehehe). Gary Bettman would despair, but it would be good hockey!

As a random aside, once Ottawa gets a CFL team again, the Peg would likely move back to the West in that sport, which is pretty popular in western Canada. Having a CFL and NHL team that play against the “same” rival cities could be fun. I know my taunting of my Ottawa-based friend will increase if the deal to get the football team back goes through!

Now if the Nordiques come back…that will be a very interesting realignment discussion…for another thread, though!

It wouldn’t shock me if the Predators and Thrashers just flip divisions, especially for next season, because it would likely be easiest to work out the pair of schedules that the NHL is apparently looking at. After that, I’m unsure. I’d really like to see the Wild in the Central, to try to rebuild the old Norris rivalries, but I’d also like to see the Wild and the Thrashers/Jets/Moose in the same division as well, even though that wasn’t a very long lived rivalry.

How substantial is this rumor? It’s the first I’ve heard of it and it seemingly goes against the NHL’s policy of trying to expand hockey into the southern tier of the U.S. Also, I don’t know if the NHL wants to give up on populous Atlanta market (over 5 million people) in return for Winnipeg’s which doesn’t even have one million. I would think they would consider other cities like Seattle, Portland, Salt Lake City, or even Las Vegas first.

The NHL is creating two schedules for 2011. One with Atlanta in the league and one with Winnipeg in the league.

CNNSI story from Monday:

Yes, the NHL made a serious push into the southern U.S., but the Thrashers have struggled. They’re near the bottom for attendance (it undoubtedly doesn’t help that they’ve only made the playoffs once). Meanwhile, Winnipeg has built a new arena, in the years since the Jets decamped for Phoenix.

The CNNSI story indicates that the Thrashers have been on the market for a while, but have had a hard time finding a buyer. Bettman’s comments suggest that he’d rather have the franchise stay in Atlanta, but he recognizes that it may no longer be an option.

Atlanta lost a NHL franchise back in the 80’s to Calgary. Now, they are going to lose one to Winnipeg?

I went to many Flames games at the Omni back when I was going to Ga Tech. I was actually was chosen to for one of the intermission promotions. shoot 10 pucks from the center red-line into a empty net in 20 seconds.

Shoot all ten pucks in the net, you win free use of a Dodge Omni for a year. (I was a poor college kid, could have used it).

The P.A. system announced my name: “NFM for New York”. The Southern Redneck booed and hissed. Well they started to cheer me as I shot first puck in the net, and then the 2nd, and then the third, and the fourth, and then the fifth. The crowd noise was really getting loud at this point.

6th puck - Choke
7th puck - Choke
8th puck - Choke
9th puck - Choke
10th puck - Choke


Won a camera. (the Kodamatic camera that Polaroid later sued for patent infringement).

I don’t have any cites right now, but rumors for the last couple years have said the NHL has abandoned the southern tier policy. In fact, in that time, I’ve heard rumors of almost every southern US team moving northward. The Kings are the only team I haven’t heard a specific destination at one time or another. The Coyotes, Thrashers, Predators, and the Florida teams were supposed to be the shakiest, with the Ducks, Stars, and Hurricanes also rumored to be leaving. Much, if not most, of this was fantasy.

This study (PDF) has been suggested as the blueprint of the future NHL direction. It says that Canada can support 6 more teams, including an additional team in each of Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. The southern teams are at the bottom of almost every economic metric for the league, so would be the most likely candidates for relocation.

Particularly damning are the charts on pages 5 and 9 of that report; most of the weakest teams for both attendance and TV viewership are in the southern U.S., despite being in large markets.

The NHL assumed that, if you brought hockey to sports fans in the South, you could make them into hockey fans. Generally speaking, this doesn’t seem to have worked very well.

Surprised to hear about it; I thought Kansas City was the prime candidate for next NHL move.

No way do they separate the Wild from a new Winnipeg team, division-wise. Minnesota-Manitoba is a great geographic rivaly. (Maybe the AHL Manitoba Moose move to KC and become the Missouri Moose to keep the alliteration?)

The long term strategy was not to get fans into seats, but to get fans glued to the television. The real reason Bettman et al. resist moving teams to places like Hamilton, Winnipeg and Quebec isn’t that they wouldn’t draw more fans - of course they would - but that there’s no marginal TV revenue in it for them. The difference in TV revenue from Canadian sources would simply not be that great, because the Canadian TV market is already at near complete saturation.

(Well, and i nthe case of Hamilton, there’s also the fact that the Maple Leafs and Sabres would go nuts.)

Losing the team in Atlanta surrenders the eighth largest TV market in the United States. It’s hard to sell American networks on a national TV deal if you’re shedding major TV markets.

A Winnipeg team would be primarily concerned with playing other Canadian franchises; since the league seems married to the super-unbalanced schedule, that means Winnipeg would have to be in the division with Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary, and therefore also Minnesota. I don’t think people in Winnipeg really much give a shit about the Wild or that Wild fans would care about the Winnipeg Drunk Guys On Lawns or whatever they end up being called, but it just makes the most sense.

The odd man out would be Colorado. Logically, you should move Colorado into the Central Division, and then move Detroit - who have been screaming for a move into the East for years - into the East. There’s no obvious place to put them except to slot them into the Southeast to replace Atlanta, which geographically seems silly but I can’t think of a better solution.

The thing is that while there is a buyer in Winnipeg awaiting the team, Winnipeg is really NOT the best market, purely from a long term market strength standpoint. I mean, with all due respect to Winnipeg, there’s a reason they lost their team. Winnipeg will, I think, be a very thin market; if the Canadian dollar declines again they’ll struggle, as they did before.

The absolute #1 best place for a new or relocated NHL team is Toronto.

Thanks for the PDF link to the study. It just confirms my belief that, no matter how big the market, it’s a tough sell trying to get fans who live in an area that doesn’t have at least one body of water that freezes up during the winter to turn out for hockey games.

Although I would’ve preferred that the league at least consider moving a franchise to Seattle/Tacoma or Portland, I’d like to see Winnipeg get a team again since they really got burned the last time.

Only 4,000 people watch the Florida Panthers? THAT’S IT?!?!? :eek: Wow, you weren’t kidding. Those numbers are staggering. 96,000, 86,000, and 80,000 versus, 11,000, 8,000, and 4,000.

The WHL already has 5 teams in WA + Portland so hockey isn’t foreign, however you would likely be pulling the rug out from somebody. Not sure the Seattle area could support WHL teams in Kent and Everett, AND an NHL team in Seattle proper.

Portland has the Rose Garden, but Seattle would probably need a suitable arena. Tough sell to get taxpayer support for an arena in a city that just had their basketball team ripped away from them.

The NHL really needs to think about contraction rather than moving franchises.

I think the NHL will probably do whatever is the least disruptive. There’s going to be a lot of teams moving in the next half decade or so, Phoenix, Florida, Columbus for example, and the NHL will probably want to wait until things are settled before they make any sweeping changes.

As a result I think the most likely outcome is that Winnipeg ends up in the Central and either Columbus or Nashville make the trip SouthEast. Once those other teams move, especially if Phoenix ends up in Hamilton, they’ll do a more significant shake up.

I can’t think of a good reason to contract if you have a decent available market and a willing buyer, which they seem to have.

That situation you described would be analagous to what happens when MLB moves into a city that already has a minor league team in which case the minor league team relocates to a new city. If the NHL put a team in Seattle or Portland (a scenario I think is extremely unlikely for the near future), the WHL team would move to another city in the region (e.g., Yakima or Bend). Also, if the NHL moves into Seattle (or Tacoma), the WHL team in Everett would not have to move. The existence of the Seattle Mariners hasn’t hurt the business of the minor league Everett Aqua Sox or the Tacoma Rainiers.

As for venue problems, the NHL franchise study President Johnny Gentle linked to indicated the NHL prefers arenas that hold 18,000 or more. I think Key Arena has that capacity (although the lack of the all-important lack of luxury boxes would be a problem). There’s also the Tacoma Dome but I’m not sure what it’s capacity for hockey is.

It would be really interesting if Paul Allen threw his hat into the ring and bought one of the struggling franchises in the south and moved them into the Rose Garden. Seems like it could be a really good business decision, he owns the building already and adding a second tenant in an NHL team would be a heck of a easy transition. Presumably the city could support the team at least as well as a southern city.

The Nashville Predators will probably stay where they are. They have been very smart in supporting and developing youth hockey. They are building fans and a respectable franchise. There is a lot more youth and high school hockey being played in Nashville than in a lot of larger metropolitan cities.

This is where the rest of the NHL has fallen down. They haven’t spent the money to develop their market and their fan base. Hockey was the “fourth man in” compared to football, basketball and baseball. When you are in that position you have to win over the kids, forget about the adults. The NHL has been run by a bunch of cement-heads for too long. Take the long term look, develop the future audience then reap the results but it isn’t going to happen overnight. You can’t run a franchise in Miami the same way you run one in Edmonton. The NHL has tried to do that and that’s why the Southern strategy hasn’t been too successful.

I don’t have a cite, but word on the street is that Winnipeg has already sold out 2 seasons worth of season tickets.