Think-tank sees bright future for Jets

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Will the new Winnipeg Jets fare any better than the original franchise? The Conference Board of Canada, which is a think-tank based in Ottawa, believes it will.

As the Winnipeg Free Press reported, the group thinks the Jets’ situation will remain “rosy” from now until 2035. That’s due in part to Winnipeg being a growing city that the think-tank believes will reach a population of 1.1 million by 2035.

“You’d be like Calgary, Edmonton or Ottawa right now. You could easily carry the three franchises,” said Glen Hodgson, senior vice-president and chief economist with the conference board. He’s referring to the Canadian Football league Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the non-MLB affiliated Winnipeg Goldeyes’ baseball franchise in addition to the Jets.

“Each (Winnipeg) team needs to be aware of the market. The market is constrained now with just under 800,000 people, but it’s growing with good momentum (expected) over the next three to five years. The population is bigger and income levels have risen — the fundamentals are all aligning now for the Jets.”

Naturally, you need more than just a growing population and locals with disposable income to support a franchise. Fan loyalty counts for a lot, but that’s an area that the Jets have excelled so far. Not only has the MTS Centre already been sold out for at least the next two seasons, but the waiting list is 8,000 people long.

Another factor is the strength of the Canadian Dollar. The Canadian franchises have enjoyed a dollar that’s been at roughly par with the USD for a while but, as Hodgson pointed out, if the Canadian Dollar was ever to drop significantly, the smaller Canadian markets might be in trouble. It’s worth adding that as recently as 2002, the Canadian Loonie was worth a little more than 60 cents American.

“Then it’s a different story, we’d be back in the bad old days. There is a cost disadvantage to being in Canada and having a payroll in U.S. dollars but your revenue is largely in Canadian dollars,” Hodgson said.

So at the end of the day, nothing is truly certain, but with one season in the books, there are reasons to be optimistic about the future of the Jets.

Blackhawks F Katchouk will be sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced Sunday.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.