Tag: relocation

Phoenix Coyotes v Detroit Red Wings - Game Two

NHL schedule humor: Coyotes take on Jets in home opener


The Jets are flying south to Phoenix. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

You know someone in the league’s scheduling office has to have a sense of humor to arrange that kind of matchup for the home opener. The old Jets vs. the new Jets faceoff while the old Jets fight to stay in their new town. Did you catch all that?

In a way, the rivalry isn’t what it would have been at this time last season. For years, there were a portion of Winnipeggers who relentlessly hammered fans in Phoenix because they didn’t think they deserved an NHL team. Reading comments on Coyotes articles was a virtual how-to course for people learning how to troll effectively on the internet. There was plenty of hate to go around.

But things are a little calmer now. Since Winnipeg got an NHL team, the trolls aren’t as active these days. It probably has something to do with the fact that those pesky fans finally have a team of their own to follow. In Phoenix, the ownership problems aren’t any closer to being settled. No owner, no owner in sight, and the City of Glendale paying the bills. But here’s the difference: without Winnipeg chomping at the bit for a team, there’s less tension surrounding the Coyotes as they look for a new owner.

Still, these two teams have the potential to be rivals right out of the box. Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun expects an interesting dynamic in the stands on Saturday night:

“The mood at the Jobing.com Arena, Saturday, should be an interesting mix of Phoenix fans eager to heap derision on the Jets, and by extension, the people of Winnipeg, who almost stole their team last spring, and Winnipeggers taking advantage of an easy chance to see the Jets in a building that’s almost never full.”

On the ice, the Coyotes finished their season opening three-game road trip with a 1-1-1 record. They’re looking to build on Thursday night’s impressive 5-2 victory in Nashville as they play 9 of their next 12 games at home. For a team that hopes to make it back to the playoffs for the third straight season, every point matters in the tough Western Conference.

For Coyotes captain Shane Doan, facing off against the Jets will be an odd turn of events. He was originally drafted by the Jets in 1995 and has never been traded throughout his entire career. Yet, on Saturday, he’ll be playing against the Jets. It’s an oddity that isn’t lost on the Coyotes veteran who is looking for his 300th goal on Saturday:

“It’s a unique situation in the fact that it’s Winnipeg. Our team and our organization is connected to them and that makes it pretty special. They gave me the opportunity to play in the NHL and I will always be grateful for the incredible opportunity to play there.

“Being from Western Canada, it meant so much for me. It’s pretty unique to have a chance to play against them. I signed every contract, never asked to be traded and have never been traded. Now I’m playing against the team that drafted me. But it’s different now, they’ve got a whole different organization. A great group of guys that are in there, the management and you hear such rave reviews about it and it’s exciting for the city I’m sure.”

It’ll be the Jets job to make sure Doan doesn’t feel too much at home with the Winnipeggers in attendance. Winnipeg is 0-2 in the early going and new incarnation of the team is still looking for its first win. If they could get it against Phoenix, it would make it that much sweeter for fans in Winnipeg.

And that much more bitter for fans in Phoenix.

Relocation audition time? Kings-Penguins game in Kansas City sold out

Sprint Center - Kansas City

Every year the NHL plays a preseason game in Kansas City at the Sprint Center. This season, two non-regional teams are dueling in the city of barbecue and blues music in the Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins. While the Penguins won’t be bringing Sidney Crosby and the Kings still don’t have Drew Doughty at their disposal, the game is still a sellout success in K.C.

Officials have declared the game a sellout. Standing-room tickets were to go on sale Tuesday morning for what is expected to be the largest crowd ever for a preseason game in a non-NHL market in North America.

That’s a quantum leap from the turnouts of the first two NHL exhibition games played at the Sprint Center when an announced crowd of 9,792 showed up in 2009 for the New York Islanders and Kings, which was down from the 11,603 for the 2008 game between the St. Louis Blues and a split squad of Kings.

So with a preseason hockey game being sold out in Kansas City and not having a handful of superstars even suiting up for it, that’s going to start up the questions about how viable the city is as a potential landing spot for a NHL franchise and who would even want to go there.

The race to have a place ready for a NHL team is a bizarre one as some cities are ready made for a team (like Kansas City) while others have outdated facilities (Seattle) and others are building new ones to attract a team (Quebec City). The teams that are having financial or arena issues are many and with Kansas City’s arena being ready to host either an NHL or NBA team at any time, Kansas City ends up being the first name thrown around.

Before CONSOL Energy Center was approved, Mario Lemieux threatened to move the Penguins there if they didn’t get a new arena approved in Pittsburgh. The Islanders have virtually always been linked to moving to K.C. and with Winnipeg out of the way, you might start hearing rumblings about the Coyotes departing for Kansas City in the near future. That kind of rumor mongering  might kick up in earnest if they don’t get a new owner or Glendale doesn’t pony up to cover losses again next year. Even Columbus gets tossed into the conversation thanks to their ability to bleed money in Ohio.

It’s a convenient landing spot because of it’s availability but is it one that makes any sense at all for the league? Not at all. Selling out a preseason game is nice but as The Kansas City Star said, it’s a first for the NHL in the city. Moving a NHL team to a city that’s not rabid about the sport is inviting trouble to that franchise.

The Coyotes have struggled mightily in Arizona, the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg, and the Avalanche after a great first ten years have a hard time filling the Pepsi Center these days. Winning has a lot to do with this part of things, but taking a struggling team to an area that at the very least is tepid to the sport has the makings for disaster. It’s great to take the game to cities like Kansas City that don’t have a lot of hockey these days and show off how great the game is, but unless the desire is there from the people there to want a team and shell out the big bucks for tickets, it’s a venture better left for preseason games and not taking a gamble on the future.

Alex Burmistrov feeling right at home in Winnipeg

Alex Burmistrov

With the Thrashers moving to Winnipeg, a lot of players having to change their address to the Canadian prairie from urbanized Atlanta makes for one hell of a change. While a lot of Canadian players might be excited to move to Canada and play in front of raucous crowds in Winnipeg, for others it’s a change that makes them feel more at home.

For a young guy like Alex Burmistrov, the Jets’ not-quite 20 year-old Russian forward, moving to Winnipeg is the sort of thing that’s got him feeling excited about the changes he and the rest of the team are about to discover.

Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun finds out from Burmistrov that the differences they’ll face in Winnipeg compared to Atlanta won’t be too much of a shock to his system.

“People love hockey here and it’s cold here and that’s what I know,” Burmistrov said Thursday after skating at the MTS IcePlex.

“It’s -35 celsius in the winter in my hometown. Same thing.”

Burmistrov comes from Kazan, Russia, but has played two seasons in North America, the first with the Barrie Colts of the OHL and the second with the Atlanta Thrashers.

He admitted the last two seasons were difficult, especially being so far away from home.

“It was hard to be by myself, with no family,” he said.

Burmistrov was Atlanta’s first round pick in 2010 and got a quick introduction to the NHL last season appearing in 74 games with the Thrashers and scoring six goals with 14 assists while playing most of his time on the third and fourth lines. For a rookie, playing on those deeper lines which don’t get as much ice time can make life tough for a player to develop.

This season, Burmistrov figures to get more minutes and a better chance to show off the offensive skills that made him the eighth overall pick in the 2010 draft. Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff already feels like Burmistrov is already a strong defensive player, but guys aren’t taken eighth overall to be checking forwards, he’s going to have to start scoring goals to live up tot hat billing. It might not all come this season, but we should see him get ahead of offensive tallies from last year.

One thing is for sure, with Burmistrov, Evander Kane, and Bryan Little there’s plenty of youth to go around at forward. Having these guys all grow together will work out in the long run for Winnipeg and the fans will go nuts for them.