Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bringing Back the Jets? Think About This.

I checked in on Twitter this afternoon and the tweets about NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's comments were all up in my feed.

BlackBerry™ mogul Jim Balsillie is fighting to buy the Phoenix Coyotes and bring them to Hamilton, Ontario. Meanwhile, Bettman was quoted in an affidavit as saying that, "if the team did return to Canada, it would be to Winnipeg." This, from a conversation in April with Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes' lawyer.

So here we go - the can of worms reopens and all the Winnipeg Jets fans get excited (this happens at least twice a year).

I was at the Manitoba Moose game last night at the MTS Centre where they beat the Houston Aeros in game 1 of their AHL playoff series. Just under 10,000 fans attended the game at the arena which has seating for around 14,000.

While it's great to see a big crowd out supporting the Moose, one thing I couldn't help but notice was how uncomfortably crowded the concourse and concession areas were during the intermission between periods. The food, beer, and washroom lineups were unreasonably long. It's actually quite a challenge just to walk a lap around the concourse without getting "stuck in traffic". 

DJ Hunnicutt, who was at the game with me, made an astute observation: this building, pretty though it is, just doesn't have the capacity to house an NHL franchise.

Assuming they would need a sellout every game just to be able to support a pro team, the MTS Centre facilities just feel too small to accommodate all those fans. Some people perhaps don't see the forest for the trees on this issue, as comments from a recent Winnipeg Free Press article would indicate:

"...we now have an NHL Caliber (sic) State of the Art arena with ZERO obstructed seats..."

In the same article, writer Tim Campbell calls the MTS Centre, "NHL-suitable."

Is it really?

I'd love to see Winnipeg get back into the NHL, but all the angles need to be considered. If it's a little more than cozy with 10,000 fans in the building, how long would it be before people started griping once there are 14,000 at every game?