Friday, March 02, 2012

And coming up on the outside track, it's Saskatoon!

"We have received interest from Quebec, Seattle, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Southern Ontario, from Saskatoon, even Halifax. I always give the same answer."

"We don't like moving teams and, currently, there are no teams available. Maybe one day the circumstances will allow for one but for now, there is nothing available." -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on the frequent correspondences he has over NHL franchises.

Add a new city to the NHL sweepstakes, with word that Saskatoon has been making inquiries to the NHL as to the availability of franchises, with an eye to relocating one of the current struggling teams to the prairie province.

The mention of Saskatoon came first from an article on the Sun newspaper portal, mainly dealing with the prospect of the Phoenix Coyotes one day arriving in Quebec City, Saskatoon but a casual mention among a list of other cities that have inquired.

The topic Saskatoon's interest was further fleshed out yesterday in a National Post article, by way of the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, which outlined the findings of Bob McKenzie who explored the Saskatoon theme on TSN.

The prospect of a Saskatoon would clearly have some challenges, the size of the Saskatchewan city is rather small by NHL standards, though they host a very enthusiastic populace when it comes to hockey, not unknown to travel many hours to follow the CFL's Roughriders, though there is a world of difference in driving conditions from May to November, compared to November to May.

Saskatoon does however have a rink that with a few refinements would be NHL ready in pretty short order and the Saskatchewan economy is one of the strongest in Canada, suddenly finding that there are more people moving into the province than plan to leave it.

As well the passion for hockey in the province has long been known thanks to the hosting duties of the World Junior championships, which played to rave reviews by all who attended.

This is not the first time that Saskatoon's name has popped up as a potential NHL home, back in 1983-84 Wild Bill Hunter, one of the founders of the WHA came tantalizingly close to bringing the St. Louis Blues north, though as we all have learned since then, John Ziegler, then NHL President stepped in and as a league took control of the Blues, with a vow to keep them in Missouri.

And while the Blues are still a cause for concern for Gary Bettman,  it seems unlikely that we'll be replaying the Blues to Saskatoon episode in 2012.

Most likely at the moment, Saskatoon is the longest of the long shots for Canadian relocation, with Quebec City, Hamilton and even a second team for Toronto probably higher on the list of possibilities, still when you look at an example such as Green Bay in the NFL, you have to think that there would be a similar nature of pride and success in the heart of Canada's expanse.

Sportsnet-- Speculative rumours
Saskatoon Star Phoenix-- NHL group 'serious' about team

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