Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bringing the boys back home?

In the space of only a couple of weeks the hockey world has gone from discussing a potential move of the Coyotes to Hamilton (seemingly at an end thanks to the bankruptcy ministrations of Judge Redfield T. Baum) to a sudden interest in Winnipeg, to this weekends latest pin on the Rand McNally map of a return to Quebec City.

Globe and Mail-- Quebec moves closer to getting NHL team
Vancouver Province--Quebec a capital sports town
Toronto Star-- Nordiques ready for a rebirth in Quebec?
Edmonton Sun-- Peladeau promoting Quebec team
Winnipeg Sun-- Big money talks
CBC-- Talk of NHL return to Winnipeg premature
Ottawa Citizen-- Thomson the key to talk of Winnipeg
Winnipeg Free Press-- Players dipsy-doodling
Winnipeg Free Press-- Winnipeg could be NHL winner -- by default

A potential welcome jump in Canadian content, that would put the league back into to dedicated hockey markets once deemed to small, now apparently just what the NHL is looking for in its hour of need.

With perhaps up to nine NHL franchises (all American, many southern) reportedly being shopped around, it's no wonder that cities where the game still resonates (ie: where people still care) may get a second chance.

Both Winnipeg and Quebec are perceived by many Canadians as having been robbed of their teams back when the NHL thought that sunbelt locations were the future, leaving behind those small provincial towns that just couldn't compete with the bright lights, sand and surf of the southern locales.

But with losses increasing yearly, the interest factor dropping just as fast, retrenchment back in the cradle of the game seems to be but a governors vote away.

Quebec has been actively courting the NHL over the last few months, most recently with a meeting with Gary Bettman in New York (though some suggest that those meetings are more a case of a grandstanding mayor up for re-election than a solid plan of return) and while the movements of any potential Winnipeg franchise have been held under cover, there seems to be enough smoke starting to waft around to get people talking and thinking that the long held dream of a return to the NHL my not be that far away.

The immediate impact of the two former NHL cities returning would be welcome, instant rivalries would be rekindled and the prospect of playing in front of full houses as opposed to near empty ones must be a comforting thought to the other NHL owners who must be worried that if things keep going the way they are, twenty will be splitting the cost of the other ten.

Lost in all the sudden flag waving however is Hamilton, a community that seems to always be the bridesmaid of late in all these rumoured franchise shifts, the most recent shot that they had at joining in on the hopeful Stanley Cup parade, was with the Jim Balsillie efforts in Arizona, which ended in more than a fair amount of acrimony with other NHL owners.

You wonder if Hamilton has not been mortally wounded in their quest after the latest twist in the Coyotes saga, of so, it doesn't seem fair. Their market is probably just as likely to be successful as Quebec City and Winnipeg would be, yet their stock seems to be dropping as the other two rise.

Then again, with those rumoured nine teams apparently anxious to find new owners, there may be hope for the Hammer yet, in the end any city with a pulse beating faster than the southern cadavers could be chosen.

Toronto Star-- Hamilton won't quit NHL fight
Hamilton Spectator-- Hamilton holds onto NHL dream
Canadian Press-- Hamilton residents refuse to give up NHL dream despite U.S. court decision

Still for Canadian hockey fans one or all three would be greeted as a positive step, though one has to wonder if perhaps all of this repatriation talk is not a move by the NHL to deflect some of its troublesome baggage of late.

Just suggesting that they are thinking of a return to some of Canada's once spurned cities, could buy them enough time to put out some of the many fires that seem to be burning around the NHL offices these days.

One hopes that in the end, it's not the fans of Winnipeg, Quebec City and Hamilton that end up getting burned.

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