I was happy to see the good people of Winnipeg are psyched to have an NHL team in their midst again. The new Jets are already rock stars and they’ve yet to play an official minute in the Peg.
Excitement has been one of the main casualties of the NHL’s expansion into non-traditional markets and into markets that can’t really sustain an NHL team.
By forcing square hockey pegs into round market holes, the league sucked the excitement out of the game for fans, many of whom were forced to sit amongst swaths of empty seats and for players, who toiled in an obscurity usually reserved for Mummenschanz performers.
But assuming the excitement shown by the people of Winnipeg will translate into ticket sales, it seems the league is better off having a team in a hockey market, as opposed to a team trying to create a hockey market, as was the case with the Jets previous stop in Atlanta.
NHL teams in traditional markets also means the success of the league hinges less on the successes of its national stars.
Just about everyone attached to hockey is analyzing the Sidney Crosby concussion situation, trying to determine when he’ll come back, if he’ll come back, and if there’s some sort of cover-up going on somewhere. A lot of this is driven by the fact that it’s August and not much is going on, NHL-wise. But a lot of this is also driven by the fact that Crosby is the face of the NHL. For much of North America (especially NBC), Crosby is the NHL.
But in hockey markets outside of Pittsburgh, the Crosby story is more curiosity than anything. Because for fans in true hockey markets, in places like Winnipeg, they’re way more interested in their own players than in Crosby.