When the Winnipeg Jets folded in 1996 there was a void left in the prairies. Saskatchewanians and Manitobans alike were unsure of where to go with their loyalties. Saskatchewan has been known for its love affair with hockey and has produced such National Hockey League (NHL) stars as Gordie Howe, Theoren Fluery, and 2007 Stanley Cup winner and Regina native Ryan Getzlaf. An NHL team in Saskatchewan would be greeted with open arms. Some people may contend the economic feasibility of having an NHL team in Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan Roughriders have some of the highest attendance records in the Canadian Football League (CFL), and if you have ever watched a Saskatchewan at Calgary CFL game in person or even on television you can clearly see that the stands are divided Saskatchewan Green and Calgary Red. This devotion for the Saskatchewan Roughriders is evident in all CFL games and events, the Roughriders are ÃÂSaskatchewanÃÂs teamÃÂ.
Saskatchewan is a growing market, diamond mines and oil sands are bringing people and companies to the praries. The money is here, the only problem is getting the NHLÃÂs attention. Saskatchewan plays and loves hockey, the team would be ÃÂSaskatchewanÃÂs hockey teamÃÂ, and itÃÂs economically realistic. LetÃÂs bring the prarie hockey fansÃÂ attention and money back to the prairies.
The NHL has been facing fan disinterest, mainly due to the fact that they have expanded to areas in the United States of America that are not and have not been known to be professional hockey markets. The Carolina Hurricanes, Phoenix Coyotes, Atlanta Thrashers, Anaheim Mighty Ducks, and the Nashville Predators were in the bottom ten for attendance records last year. When thinking about hockey, locations that are hot and or deserts do not usually come to mind. Saskatchewan is a hockey province.
Historically, the Prairie province (Saskatchewan) has produced more NHL players, per capita, than any Canadian province, American state or European country. Before this season (2004), 422 Saskatchewan-born players (395 skaters, 27 goalies) had dressed for at least one NHL game. Not bad, considering the population has hovered around 1 million for the past 25 years. (CBC Sports)With SaskatchewanÃÂs infamously long and cold winters, and being geographically relatively flat, it is one big hockey rink. A place as dedicated to hockey as Saskatchewan deserves an NHL team.
Saskatchewan has, for the most, part a scattered population. The Saskatchewan Roughriders based in Regina, the provinceÃÂs capital, have taken advantage of their spread apart inhabitants as means of bringing a larger fan base. Instead of naming the team as ÃÂlocalÃÂ, for example the ÃÂToronto Maple LeafsÃÂ or ÃÂCalgary FlamesÃÂ; the Roughriders have used a ÃÂpopulation blanketÃÂ of a provincial name, ÃÂSaskatchewanÃÂ, to bring in an extensive fan foundation. In 2005, the population of Columbus Ohio was 730,657. As of April 1st 2007, the population of Saskatchewan had reached 990,212. Between the NHL team Columbus Blue Jackets fan base and a Saskatchewan based hockey team, Saskatchewan would be the significantly bigger market by 259,555. The Roughriders have also found another way to become ÃÂSaskatchewanÃÂs teamÃÂ. The Roughriders are a community owned team, meaning that anyone can buy into the Roughriders like a stock and, just like shareholders, they can also voice their opinions on how the team is operated.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders are one of the most beloved teams in the CFL. Saskatchewan people are very loyal to this team even when living elsewhere. This same loyalty would be extended to an NHL team in a place that is proven to be a hockey powerhouse. With loyalty comes attendance which produces money, money that would be beneficial for the owners (community owned or not), NHL, but more importantly Saskatchewan and its residents. The 2006 average home Saskatchewan Roughrider game attendance is 25,288 at an average ticket cost of $38.50; the average attendance of an NHL game is 16,954 at an average cost of $43.13. Considering those figures, the Saskatchewan RoughridersÃÂ gain $973,588 per game on tickets; the average NHL team gains $ 731,226.02 without factoring in any other costs, the difference is a staggering $242,361.98 in favour of Saskatchewan. It is true, however, that the NHL plays on average four and half times more home games than CFL teams do. Saskatchewan has the ability to handle big events and, with significant capital soon flowing through the province, Saskatchewan can keep a large fan base over a longer NHL season. The 2006 successful hosting of ÃÂThe Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the WorldÃÂ, The Rolling Stones, was a giant leap in putting Regina and Saskatchewan on the map for great places to have and hold big event and perhaps even an NHL team. The two day event with the Rolling Stones brought Saskatchewan an estimated ten million dollars. Saskatchewan is a province that is going to expand in its population, and economic strength. There have been recently, diamond mine and oil sands discovered in Saskatchewan. With the discovery of these valuable natural resources come workers and corporations looking for places to live and to put their money. The money is here currently as in evident by to success of The Rolling Stones and more is on its way with SaskatchewanÃÂs natural resources being taken advantage of.
Saskatchewan would love nothing more than to have a professional hockey team. I grew up playing hockey in Saskatchewan; I can tell you that there are probably just as many rinks as there are towns. One problem would be organizing the capital. Saskatchewan has successfully supported the Roughriders and more money is on its way from other avenues which could provide economic stability to an NHL team. Once the money has been organized, Saskatchewan would have enough people going to the games to keep the team from going bankrupt and even make money for the province if the figures remain true comparatively to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Saskatchewan has proven capable of hosting big events such as the Rolling Stones. The only missing piece is getting the NHLÃÂs attention; if they donÃÂt take notice, others will and a huge opportunity will be lost.
Works Cited/ ConsultedÃÂSaskatchewan a hockey hotbedÃÂ CBC Sports, 21 February 2004. 14 September 2007http://www.cbc.ca/sports/story/2004/02/21/hockeyday040221.htmlÃÂAnd the beat goes on: NHL Ticket prices back to normalÃÂ Sporting Business News, 10 October 2006. 14 September 2007http://www.sportsbusinessnews.com/_news/news_351799.phpÃÂCFL AttendanceÃÂ CFL.ca, 05 October 2006. 14 September 2007http://www.cfl.ca/index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=viewtopic&p=207392ÃÂNHL Attendance 2006ÃÂ ESPN.com, 2006. 14 September 2007http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/attendance?year=2006