Saturday, January 24, 2009

Skating off to Saskatoon?

Never mind Hamilton, Winnipeg, Quebec City, Halifax, Kitchener-Waterloo or a second team for Toronto, a rumour floating through the NHL ether this all star weekend has the New York Islanders taking the advice of the Guess Who and running back to Saskatoon...

While most likely a fanciful balloon launched to excite the hockey masses of the prairie (and put a scare into less than hurried local officials of Long Island ), it would seem unlikely that Commissioner Bettman would be inclined to have one of his New York City franchises trek across the continent to set up shop in the middle of Saskatchewan.

The story seems to have gained a bit of life through a Reuters dispatch which outlines the troubles that owner Charles Wang has been having in getting authorities on Long Island to build a new arena to house the Islanders.

With that sword dangling over the franchise, the rumours have begun with Saskatoon apparently sharing top billing as a relocation site with Kansas City and their state of the art new sports arena, patiently waiting for a tenant, a prospect that has Islander fans a tad worried.

Saskatoon of course was once down this path before, as the then financially troubled St. Louis Blues were to be moved to northern Saskatchewan in 1983 , only to have the project shot down by then NHL President John Ziegler.

While we would like to see the game repatriated to Canadian ice in greater numbers, unless Saskatoon has some remarkable financial backing and a season ticket base willing to pay huge amounts of dollars to provide the team with financial security, we somehow don't think that this trial balloon is going to fly.

We don't doubt that the city (and province) would embrace the prospect of the NHL playing in the land that sends so many players off to the leagues outposts, but financially we suspect it might be a tough road to travel.

Then again, Saskatchewan has shown time and time again that if a project seems unlikely, then they'll prove you wrong, it will be interesting to watch how this one plays out and what the reaction in Saskatchewan will be, though you can't help but get the feeling that they're being used as a bargaining chip as the Islanders try to solve their local problems on Long Island.

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