Friday, June 17, 2005

Running back to Saskatoon?

Back in the 1983 the St. Louis Blues almost became the Saskatoon Blues, the late Wild Bill Hunter led a prairie group dedicated to purchasing the then financially wrecked Blues and relocating them to one of the cradles of Canadian hockey.

In the end however, the NHL not particularly sold on the idea of success on the Canadian prairie, found an owner for St. Louis Harry Ornest, who purchased the Blues for 31 million and kept them on the Mississippi River for as a more stable financial picture developed.

Now the Blues are once again on the market and once again bleeding ink a dark crimson red. The Lauries, Nancy and Bill (Nancy a heir to the Wal Mart fortunes) who bought the Blues and the Savis centre in 1999, have said that losses of 60 million over two years are too much to bear. Added on to the franchise red ink is the debt load of the Savis Centre which has accumulated over 200 million dollars in debt since it opened in 1994. The massive flow of money out has apparently taken its toll and the Lauries want out.

Bringing into question the viability of the Blues in St. Loo. Now no one is actually expecting Saskatchewan Place to start dusting off the action plan for NHL hockey in Saskatoon, but down the ole Yellowhead highway is a brand new state of the art rink in Winnipeg, don't be surprised to start hearing rumours of the Winnipeg hockey powers courting the Blues for relocation there.

There is always Hamilton as well with Copps Coliseum built for NHL hockey but never granted a franchise and hockey mad Quebec City is always an option, though the age of Le Colisee probably rules a return out until a move for a new arena gains strength in the Quebec Capital.

But word will soon leak out, count on it. Interestingly enough there may be no better time to pick up an NHL franchise, with costs about to be placed under control via a salary cap (or whatever buzzword they use to introduce one). St. Louis may just be the tip of the franchise for sale properties soon to line the pages of the Sports Properties for Sale section of the Business papers. Many observers feel that the Blues if run properly can be a viable concern in St. Louis.

The Lauries claim their priority is to keep the team in St. Louis, but one suspects if the right offer comes around they'll be more than willing to wave goodbye. Just ask fans of the Vancouver Grizzlies who watched the Lauries show interest in their basketball team, a situation that helped speed the Grizzlies out of Vancouver. Long after the Grizz left BC, perhaps the time has finally come to retrieve one sports franchise for Canada, time will tell!

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