Winnipeg Jets owner co-owner Mark Chipman has some advice for the group interested in bringing an NHL franchise to Saskatoon – recall how Jim Balsillie tried to move the Coyotes to Hamilton, then take the exact opposite approach.
Chipman didn’t actually mention Balsillie’s name, but he didn’t need to.
“(Taking a behind-the-scenes approach) is very wise,” Chipman told the Star Phoenix. “It doesn’t get people’s expectations up real high, only to have them disappointed if it doesn’t work out for whatever reason. The league itself appreciates that approach and are more likely to take people seriously when they’re doing their homework quietly and methodically and legitimately, rather than trying to grab a headline for whatever purpose.”
Chipman did, however, have one reservation about Saskatoon’s ability to support an NHL franchise.
“The only question is how far will people drive to get to a game? That’s the only question I have in my mind,” he said.
“Provincially, our population bases are basically the same. Yours is just scattered out far more than ours is.”
With a population around 260,000, Saskatoon is less than half the size of Winnipeg, which is already the NHL’s smallest market. And while similarly sized Regina is a three-hour drive from Saskatoon, that’s a three-hour drive in Saskatchewan winter weather.