Is Kansas City A Viable Option For The NHL?

The Atlanta Thrashers will be moving to Winnipeg, Manitoba for the 2011-12 NHL season.

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Is Kansas City A Viable Option For The NHL?

Winnipeg, along with the rest of Canada have been screaming for the NHL to return to their country ever since the Jets left Winnipeg the first time to head to Phoenix. Now that the Thrashers have moved, it still leaves the Coyotes on the bubble on relocation. Many locals in Arizona seem to think someone will come forward and save their team, but in all honesty it likely is a pipedream.

Among the cities who seemingly come up every time that there are talks of an NHL franchise relocating is our very own Kansas City. The others you commonly hear are Seattle, Portland, Las Vegas, and Quebec City. It appears the NHL wants a team in Seattle, which makes sense as the Pacific Northwest could likely support a second franchise and would give the Vancouver Canucks a natural rival.

The one thing Kansas City definitely has going for them is a new facility that has plenty of seats. The Sprint Center opened in late 2007 and is suitable for 17,752 fans for hockey. 17,000 seems to the the threshold that the NHL seeks for an arena, though Winnipeg proved that is not always the case as the MTS Centre seats just 15,015.

Kansas City would be 22nd out of 30 NHL markets in terms in population, so the market while small, would be big enough to support a team. The biggest burden for Kansas City is finding someone who would financially fund bringing a team to the area. The NHL has taken notice of hockey in Kansas City, by bringing exhibition games to the the Sprint Center in the past and they will be doing so again this fall, when the Pittsburgh Penguins will take on the Los Angeles Kings. Ironically the Kings are owned by the AEG, the same group which owns the Sprint Center.

While waiting for a potential owner to step forward and show interest in bringing a team to Kansas City, the best thing hockey fans in the area can do is pack the house for these games and show the league there is an interest in the sport. So far there have been mixed reviews as only 11,603 and 9.792 fans showed up for exhibition games in 2008 and 2009. However both of those games were played without full strength squads.

For hockey to continue to be looked at as a viable option in Kansas City, local fans need to vote with their feet and show up on September 27th for the next NHL exhibition. 

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Winnipeg Choosing Between NHL Team Names For Relocated Atlanta Thrashers

For a few more days, someone could claim to be an Atlanta Thrashers fan. Fairly soon, that will sound as dated as being a Winnipeg Jets fan once did. The Manitoba city is getting their turn at another NHL franchise after 15 years of no top-level professional hockey in a region that should have never lost their team in the first place. Then again, the NHL is not the same league it was in the mid-’90s.

So now that Winnipeg has its team back, does it automatically resort back to its old moniker or even the old logo? There are some nostalgic fans who would like nothing more, but given the energy for a new team and to brand itself for a new generation of hockey fan, the new Thrashers owner might want to think carefully before settling on any name. To choose one favorite is to alienate another.

Some fans are calling for the team to be given a regional feel like the Manitoba Jets instead of Winnipeg to signal a broader fan base and representation. That might be a smart move given the NHL’s emphasis on selling out the MTS Centre every night. Others are calling for the Moose name that currently describes the city’s minor league hockey team that is most likely to relocate as well to carry on the legacy of current hockey in the town.

Either way, there’s an excitement that’s nice to see after several yawn-inducing seasons in Atlanta. Of any of the major four team sports, hockey is synonymous with the regions that supply its players, and the expansion always felt corporate from the outset. It’s nice to see the shift bringing back hockey to a city like Winnipeg that should have never lost its franchise to Phoenix in the first place.

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