The Winnipeg Free Press is reporting tonight that True North, to whom the NHL may turn if it decides to re-relocate the Phoenix Coyotes back to Manitoba, "will likely" begin a campaign that will have fans committing to buy seasons tickets for a minimum of three years should the 'Yotes move.
The motivation? Proving to the NHL that Winnipeg is a viable market. Even if, you know, Bettman already said it was.
It's unknown how long the community will have to respond but count on a week to sell the vast majority of the MTS Centre's 15,000 seats. A poor response from the community would likely scuttle True North's attempt to land an NHL franchise.
"There is nothing in the constitution on this," said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly in an email to the Free Press on Thursday. "Certainly, one of the things the board has to have satisfied is that the market is capable of supporting an NHL team at NHL prices. But that can be done in a variety of ways, depending on the market. There is no one 'cookie cutter' approach here."
This is a community that suffered heartbreak when the Jets left and has experienced over a decade of cruel teases of their return, only to be further taunted by this farce in Glendale. To see that community come together and, as the Freep predicts, sell out the barn in a week would be inspiring …
… and, yet, completely expected, right? The common fan filling many of the 15,000 seats at MTS Centre hasn't necessarily been in doubt. It's a manageable capacity, perhaps to the point of creating demand.
The real issue is how much revenue is being generated by those tickets sold; i.e. the price points being met by those fans. This speaks to the relative affluence of the market, which is something SB Nation's Derek Zona explored a few months ago about Winnipeg as well as Quebec City, and found "not only would either city immediately become the smallest market in the league, it would be by an enormous margin."
Which is to say that the questions about Winnipeg have less to do with fan fervor, which is undeniable, and more to do with the small-market economic forces that helped send the Jets to the desert in the first place.
As for the True North campaign: Not exactly a stellar history of selling season tickets before a municipality actually has its team … right, Hamilton?
Stick-tap to Dan H. for the tip.