On Ice Management Group says it has the cash to bring the NHL to Saskatoon, but insiders doubt the city has the population and corporate base to support a team.
Gary Bettman threw out Saskatoon’s name as evidence of the NHL’s popularity, showing a demand for franchises across the continent. It’s not the first time Saskatoon has been mentioned as a potential NHL home, but it probably won’t be the last. And On Ice Management Group, the group that’s been discussing a team at Credit Union Centre, may have the cash to bring in a team, though the city and province would need to drop some cash to bring the arena up to NHL standards in terms of clubhouse facilities and amenities.
But whether it has enough cash to maintain operations is another thing. The obvious model is Winnipeg, but it’s not an apt comparison. For starters, Winnipeg is about three times larger as the greater Saskatoon market, which would by necessity include Regina. Canada’s Conference Board, the think-tank that’s looked long and hard at potential NHL markets, estimates a market needs to be 800,000 to support NHL. Winnipeg — and Quebec City, by the way — meets this threshold. Saskatoon, at 260,000, isn’t close.
And then there’s the fact that Saskatoon isn’t exactly a thriving corporate base. Very few large corporations are headquartered there, leading many to conclude the corporate base would be iffy. No wonder Premier Brad Wall has already spoken out against the potential of the NHL in his province.
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