The Hot Corner - Could Saskatchewan support an NHL team?

It’s a question that get’s asked very often. Could Saskatchewan be a successful home for an NHL franchise?

The NHL is currently testing the waters by holding preseason games in Saskatoon; something they’ve done over the past few years with success, so it seems that they think the province has a chance to support a team.

Still, many people will instantly bash the idea, saying that Saskatchewan has no chance at supporting an NHL team. Their reasons are many.

The populations of Regina and Saskatoon – the two most likely locations for a team – are just too small. The provincial population, sitting just above one million, is also too small to host a successful hockey team.

The time of the year that hockey is played is also, apparently, a problem. People against the idea of an NHL team in Saskatchewan argue that the populace of Saskatchewan would not be willing to travel to Saskatoon or Regina often during the winter just to watch a hockey game. They say that the temperature would be far too cold at times for travel.

That argument makes sense… on the surface. But when you look at it, people in Saskatchewan are always travelling during the winter. They’re either going to the ‘big cities’ for shopping, or driving their kids (or themselves) to and from their own hockey games and practices. The travel and the weather are not really a problem if someone is wanting to attend an NHL game.

In fact, attendance would be the least of the problems for a prospective NHL team in Saskatchewan. For example, the Saskatchewan Rush – a professional lacrosse team now located in Saskatoon and playing in the NLL – are currently averaging 10,809 fans per home game. That’s an impressive stat itself, but even more so when considering that lacrosse is not one of Saskatchewan’s most followed or played sports.

It’s been proven that when you place a professional sporting franchise in Saskatchewan, the people of the province will flock to support it. Of course they’ll still support their favourite team, but they’ll also throw their allegiance behind their home province team. Both the Riders and the Rush are having no problems with attendance (even during horrible seasons), so in reality attendance is not a problem.

No, the biggest hurdle that faces an NHL team in Saskatchewan would be the fact that Regina and Saskatoon really are in the middle of nowhere.

That fact means that players not of Saskatchewan blood would most likely go elsewhere if a team in Saskatchewan approached them in the hopes of acquiring their services.

Heck, the Winnipeg Jets have a hard enough time luring highly touted free agents to their city; Regina and Saskatoon – both of whom are roughly half the size of Winnipeg – would struggle even more to land big name players.

So could Saskatchewan support an NHL franchise? I say yes, but for that to happen, athletes need to come off their high horse and embrace the small town way of life.

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