Life is good for hockey in Canada these days. All seven Canadian franchises are within striking distance of or in a playoff spot and pride has never been higher. Now they’re going to get exhibition games back in some cities itchy for more action.
The Canadian Press reports the city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan will be getting a pair of preseason games next season. One game will feature the Ottawa Senators facing the Calgary Flames on September 16 and the Winnipeg Jets will face the Boston Bruins on September 27.
The games will take place at the 15,000 seat Credit Union Centre, home of the Saskatoon Blades junior hockey team. Unsurprisingly, this works as a move to help spread the footprint of the Winnipeg Jets across central Canada. The two cities are a healthy eight-hour drive apart.
This will also double as a means for the city of Saskatoon to show off how well it can handle pro hockey. There have been rumors in the past, both distant and more recent, about their desire to be a prairie outpost for the NHL. The city even has Don Cherry backing their cause so they’ve got that going for them.
Saskatchewan is the richest province in Canada, according to Don Cherry. That was one of the arguments he used during Coach’s Corner to argue that Saskatoon, Saskatchewan is worthy of an NHL team.
In response to the smirk that’s probably on your face, Cherry went on to say that people laughed when he said that Winnipeg would get a team and sure enough, the NHL has returned to that city. However, we do see one issue with Cherry’s logic.
Winnipeg’s metropolitan area has a population of 730,018, which is small by NHL standards. Compare that to Saskatoon’s metropolitan area, which is currently home to 260,600 people according to the 2011 Census report. Although, based on figures provided by Cherry, that number balloons to 400,000 if you widen the range to 80 miles. That’s a distance that apparently “means nothing” out west, according to Cherry. So if you count everyone within 80 miles of Saskatoon and assume that a healthy chunk of them would be willing to drive that distance on a regular basis for the sake of regular season NHL hockey, the number still pales in comparison to Winnipeg. That’s not even touching things like TV ratings.
Saskatchewan certainly sounds like a tough sell to us.