It has recently been published in the media that Winnipeg is among the markets that players in the NHL least want to be traded to. This comes from the mouths of agents who apparently regurgitate the feeling of their players that say it’s too cold here or whatever else.
Winnipeg was among other cities like Edmonton, Toronto and Ottawa in the top five places players don’t want to be traded to.
Ironically, half of the players in the NHL are Canadian, and for some reason they don’t want to play in Canadian cities.
It’s understandable that players not want to move to Edmonton to become an Oiler. The Oilers haven’t had a good team in years, and their rebuild period seems endless. They seem content drafting for offensive power while neglecting the defensive end, and until they learn that success is built from the back end out, they will continue to rebuild.
I can even understand the players not wanting to be moved to Toronto, because…who would? There’s just far too much Toronto in Toronto. The Leafs suck and they always will. It would be fair to call them the Blue Bombers of the NHL. Moreover, the media in Toronto is a menacing beast so relentless that the rest of the country is subjected to constant spillover news updated about the Leafs, Raptors and Argonauts, and how the city wants to buy its way into the NFL. Why would a player want to be a part of that? Would it be soul crushing? One thing is for sure, to survive in a market like Toronto one would need skin as thick as a dragon, the nerve of cage-fighter and balls of a fine brass alloy.
I’ve lived in Ottawa. It’s one of the most beautiful cities I’ve been to. There is so much to do there, and with Montreal and Toronto only a few hours drive away there is even more. I’ve been to Senators games. The vibe for hockey in the nations capital is resounding. The building is loud. What more could a player want?
I’ve been a Winnipegger since the day I was born. What can I say about my backyard town? Even when I tried to escape it by moving to Ottawa seven years ago, it found me and dragged me back. They say that once you’re a Winnipegger, you’re a Winnipegger for life. I’m living proof of that statement. There’s a real raw feeling to this town. It can be nasty sometimes, it can be dirty sometimes, it can be downright hard other times, but Winnipeg is a big city with a small town vibe, and as such, we pull together as a community when shit needs to get done.
Case in point: it took only 17 minutes to sell 13,000 season tickets as part of the deal to finalize the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers and bring Winnipeg its second pro hockey team. Other markets should take note for this is how hockey should look. To say the fans in this city are passionate would be an understatement. MTS Centre is the only arena in the world where crazed fans chant out the name of a corporation during the national anthem. The True North shout-out has become iconic, and it’s something that spans the continent. When you hear it live, it forces the hairs on the back of your neck to stand, and forgetting is impossible.
This hockey crazed town, coupled with True North Sports and Entertainment has made the MTS Centre one of the most successful arenas in North America. The Jets sell out every home game of the season, every season they’ve been here. And the team has been consistently getting better every year. This is a young team that’s building. It has a very bright future, one that will no doubt come to a climax beneath a hoisted Stanley Cup; maybe not this season, but soon. What hockey player wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
Evander Kane, for one. Here is a guy who, from the start seemed to hate it in Winnipeg. I wonder how he felt in Atlanta, where no one knew his name. Or how he’ll feel in Buffalo, where the team will lose more games than they’ll win for the next few years. Players like Evander Kane want to be a Boston Bruin, a Chicago Blackhawk or an L.A King because they seem to think there is more superstar status associated with clubs of the like. Maybe it’s true, but good luck competing for name notoriety in Boston against the likes of Rob Gronkowski or Tom Brady of the New England Patriots…I hear they’re pretty famous.
I get the feeling that, while the Kings do well for themselves in L.A, there are so many people in that city that an NHL organization could thrive as a niche market. Compared to markets like Winnipeg, Edmonton and Ottawa, the NHL is the sports market. Players become more than just famous in these cities, they become icons, celebrities and living deities.
Maybe that’s where we’ve gone wrong, though. Maybe the lens is too zoomed in. Perhaps, when growing up lacing on the skates at five years old and dreaming of the NHL, kids aren’t thinking about becoming relatively comparable to Leonardo Dicaprio. Maybe they’re just dreaming of the NHL. Maybe that’s why there should be courses in hockey colleges across the country on how to handle the media in Canada, that way we don’t scare our children south of the border.
As far as the climate excuse that the agents gave…I don’t buy that. These are, for the most part, Canadian players playing a winter game they get paid millions to play. If their measure for success in life was to escape the cold winters of Canada, then why play hockey?
Maybe these players in question, and their agents would be better suited for cities like Raleigh where the Hurricanes can’t even fill half their building and no one cares. Or they could play for the Panthers organization where, again, no one comes and no one cares. Or they could play in the desert where the NHL had to bail out the organization just so it could keep its head above water. That’s the city that took the first Jets, by the way. Or maybe, just maybe, if these players are lucky and patient enough, a team might just land in Las Vegas and everyone can fight over who gets to be the first ‘Poker Chip’ (or whatever they might call the team) and be part of a fad market that will burn through its interest in hockey like a 5-year-old with A.D.D trying to read a paperback novel (remember those?).
One thing is for sure: players like Evander Kane would love it in Vegas because his money phone would be more than welcome there, he would be able to play in the casinos every night and live like a rock star. He’d never have to worry about messing his hair from putting on a tuque, and he’d never have to be subjected to a fashion faux pas like wearing a parka…get real.
Teemu Selanne loved it here in the ‘Peg. But then again, he was a real hockey player!