PRESSURE GROUPS CAN HELP GET A NEW NHL FRANCHISE

One of the smartest things that occurred when Winnipeg and Quebec lost their franchises in the 1990s, was that their most fanatical fans banded together to form lobbying, pressure groups dedicated to getting their NHL franchises back. In Winnipeg they called themselves the Manitoba Mythbusters and in Quebec they called themselves ZoneNordiques. Both started their own websites to keep their loyal followings informed about what was going to make the day when the Jets and Nordiques would rise again, a glorious reality.

The Mythbusters and ZoneNordiques carefully play up every positive statement and action by NHL officials, potential investors, media commentators, NHL and ex-NHL players and just about anyone who says anything positive about the local market that could help reclaim their team. They vigilantly watch and wait for every sign of new NHL expansion so that their city can join in the bidding process. They try to rally public support whenever possible to demonstrate to the NHL that they are in earnest about getting their team back.

Winnipeg has already seen its dream come true. First, they saw their new arena which was supposed to be the home of the AHL Manitoba Moose be proclaimed acceptable by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. I used to feud with the Mythbusters on another blog about the size of their new arena which is the smallest in the NHL. Though I am in favor of a returned Jets, and Nordiques (and Whalers too), I believed (and still believe) that the arena does not have enough seats. I don’t want to see Winnipeg lose the Jets again because of arena problems, but the NHL is accepting their arena and I have had to eat my words. We’ll see in coming seasons if the size of the Winnipeg arena becomes a factor and if Winnipeg will have to build a new, larger one.

I have no problem with new Quebec Videotron that seats near the current NHL median of 18,500. Nor does the NHL. They showed how much they liked the Videotron by allowing Quebec to host an exhibition game in last year’s revived World Cup.

When Atlanta was ready to fold, Winnipeg was ready. They had already recruited Mark Chipman and Canada’s richest man, Dave Thomson to be the Jets new owners. The NHL liked their ownership too and had no qualms about turning the Thrashers into the Jets. But the same cannot be said of Quebec’s prospective owner, Pierre Karl Peladeau who has made bad enemies on the NHL Board. He has been deemed unsuitable by the NHL Board which turned down his application quickly without a second thought leaving the Quebec bid in limbo until a suitable owner is found.

ZoneNordiques want to see their dream come true too. They probably were instrumental in solving the first two conditions that Commissioner Bettman demanded in 2010, fan-base and arena. 80,000 fans signed a petition asking the Nordiques to be returned and they in turn indicated that they would not object if taxpayer money was used to build a new arena. It was probably a proud and hopeful day for ZoneNordiques when the Videotron was finally completed. Only the ownership factor has yet to be solved.

But they should take heart from the Mythbusters who never gave up and got through every obstacle until their dream came true. It cannot be said that the Manitoba Mythbusters were the key element in bringing back the Winnipeg Jets. But without their existence Winnipeg might still be without an NHL team. ZoneNordiques are in the same situation. If a suitable NHL owner can be found – perhaps located with their help – they too might have their ultimate day of joy.

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