Yesterday we passed along a TSN report that a group in Saskatoon was interested in bringing an NHL franchise to the prairie city. I didn’t think much of the chances of that ever happening, leading one commenter to call me “an ignorant American.” (I am Canadian.)
Anyway, Saskatoon mayor Don Atchison was asked about the group that’s reached out to the NHL.
“They’re exceedingly serious, make no bones about that,” Atchison told the StarPhoenix. “But it doesn’t matter how serious the ownership group is. We have seen that once before when Mr. (Bill) Hunter bought the team and was ready to move it here.
“It will be up to the NHL what occurs in the end.”
“Wild” Bill Hunter tried to relocate the St. Louis Blues to Saskatoon in 1983, but the league’s board of governors nixed the move by a 15-3 vote. (“Who the hell wants to go to Saskatoon, anyway? I don’t want to be taking dogsleds to get around,” former Leafs owner Harold Ballard said.)
“I don’t think Bill Hunter’s dream has ever totally died,” Atchison said. “Some people believe there could be a team and people continuously talk about there being an NHL team here. With other centres in the United States having difficulties, it’s wonderful that the NHL and the rest of North America sees Saskatoon as a spot of interest, at least.”
Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall also weighed in on the story.
“Obviously this is very hypothetical and in early stages and sort of the stuff of rumors right now,” Wall told the Business News Network.
“But I’m pretty biased. I would wonder why the NHL’s not already in Canada’s greatest province. I think we produce more per capita NHL players than anywhere else in the country. And obviously it’s a hotbed of hockey.
“If Winnipeg can do it, I like our chances.”
Except Winnipeg’s population is 671,551 and Saskatoon’s is 222,035, and Winnipeg has a modern arena and Saskatoon doesn’t.