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?


Dave Shorr said...

Papa Bear-

I think the NHL is trying to create a wedge by having this info decimated. As it stands right now, the whole country is behind a team coming to Hamilton. So knowing that this info would get released at some point, Bettman says this so all of a sudden the unity gets broken on the issue. Winnpeg v. Hamilton, East v. West.

Look at the language used. "If a team WERE to move to Canada, I would prefer Winnipeg". He doesn't want a team to move to Canada, so essentially that's saying, 'well if I were to be murdered I'd rather get shot than drowned.'

And, you're right about everything you said as well.

dapperdan said...

Actually Steve, you were experiencing pretty much as close as it gets to a sellout. The additional 5000 it would have taken to sell out the game would have been in the upper bowl, and that section has seperate entrances, bathroom and concessions than the rest of the arena.

That being said, I don't think we could support an NHL Franchise long-term. We would have to sell out every single game and sell all the luxury boxes, and while I'm sure we could do that short term (for the first few seasons) I doubt we could keep it up.

After recently experiencing both NHL and MLB games whilst in Chicago, I would have to say that those sports organizations are much better in handling large crowds. I saw a lot more people in the stands selling beer and food, and I never had to wait in line for anything. I think it may just be a service issue. The bathrooms at the MTS Centre are head and shoulders above what the "trough" did for us at the old arena. And I think the concessions staff are just not used to the big crowds, because the Moose only get an average of 6000 fans per game in the regular season.

Steve said...

Thanks for the inputs fellas. Good points across the board.

Dan said...

Yeah, I pretty much totally agree with the other Dan. The third deck wouldn't be a huge issue (I've been to concerts where they seated well into the third deck), but I'm also of the opinion that there's no way an NHL team is sustainable in Winnipeg.

Anonymous said...

Well, if you lose less than $20 million a season you'd be doing better than Phoenix...