The Winnipeg Jets: A Successful Season?
The initial hype of getting their team back in Winnipeg has waned but the excitement of the start of the season is building. The coaching staff and team is slowly being assembled and the organization itself continues to tie up all the loose ends that comes with a NHL team one month away from playing the first game of the season. Every NHL team goes into every season with one desire: to win the Stanley Cup. Most of them know that that goal will not be attained so they set benchmarks and guidelines in achieving a successful season. In Winnipeg and throughout the league one question is one the tip of most of the NHL’s fans and pundits: What will make the Winnipeg Jets season a success?
Are the Winnipeg Jets an expansion team? No they aren’t. They have an existing organization with existing players. IsWinnipega new city to the NHL? No it is not. So a fan base does not need to be created and not much effort needs to be put into the marketing of the team. It’s easy inCanada: well sort of. It wasn’t easy when the Jets left but that was due to not having the financial backing of one of the richest families in the world. Now that’s solved. All this means that the Winnipeg Jets can not and will not have the same goals as an expansion team. Their fans will not let them.
Let’s look at the question through the eyes of the business. The Jets will be playing their home games in the MTS Centre. The team and the arena are owned by both David Thomson, a member one of the richest families inCanadaif not the world, and Mark Chipman, True North chairman. Financially there is a lot of money backing the team. The MTS Centre seats only 15,015 which will make it the smallest arena in the league. The next smallest arena would be the Nassau Coliseum with a capacity of 16,234 and where the New York Islanders play. Simple math will lead anyone to understand that no matter what game day tickets cost, the Jets will never make the same revenue as most of the other teams that get sell outs. 15,000 season tickets were sold in seventeen minutes. So yes, I can guarantee every game will be a sell out but that will not even come close to the gate revenues of most of the other Canadian teams. Also, the MTS centre doesn’t have corporate. Therefore, business wise, the team must look in a different direction to make money because yes a successful business needs to make money.
Much to the chagrin of die hard fans, the organization has decided to come out with new sweaters (see picture above). Everywhere in Canada you can still see the old Jets sweater and the organization was worried that some fans wouldn’t buy the new sweaters if they resembled to old ones. This change and the fans appetite for anything Jets will bring in revenue and will help in bridging the gap of low ticket income. The organization was even inclined to change the team’s name but went against that idea after listening to its’ fans voices.
Adding to that revenue is the deal that True North and the Winnipeg Jets signed with Bell Media (TSN).
“True North Sports & Entertainment, in conjunction with Bell Media, are please to announce today they have entered into a 10-year agreement awarding the regional television broadcast right for the Winnipeg Jets to TSN, and the radio broadcast rights for the hockey club to Sports Radio 1290. As part of the agreement, TSN will broadcast more than 60 regional regular season and pre-season games each season to fans in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and part of Northwestern Ontario on the new specialty channel “TSNJets” – a part-time television service dedicated to Jets games and launching September 20.”
In support of the announcement, TSN will broadcast five Jets games across Canada in keeping with its’ agreement with the NHL. Plus the NHL has its own deal with Hockey Night inCanadaand the CBC. Television, On the Radio, Television and Media mediums the Jets are set for ten years. A steady stream of revenue will be coming in and the owners will stay happy.
There is one last comment on the business side of things that needs to be mentioned. The Winnipeg Jets, the old Atlanta Thrashers, will continue to play in the southeast division in the eastern conference. This will mean long flights out east and down south and long stays in hotels. Obviously, there will be a hit to the pocketbook of the organization.
Thomson and True North understand that on the business end of things they won’t make bucket full of money, but I am sure they won’t lose buckets either. But let’s be honest as hockey fans do we really care for the business side of any or our teams anyways?
A successful hockey team on the ice wins games, creates a buzz in the city they play in and visit, makes the playoffs and ultimately wins the Stanley Cup. In their pseudo first year of existence, all the Winnipeg Jets need to do to be successful is to make the playoffs.
The question is how will they make the playoffs? The Jets for the time being are in the eastern conference which in the minds of many is the weakest conference. They are in the southeast division which in the same minds is the weakest division. The Atlanta Thrashers finished thirteen points out of a playoff spot in their final season. The Jets have improved their front office, their coaching staff and their roster. Their roster is littered with youth and playing in a city dreaming of the NHL and success should be good for a couple of extra wins. Plus, I am sure the players on Carolina, Florida and Tampa Bay will not like, let alone playing, even travelling to Winnipeg in the dead of winter. You can add a couple of wins there. Adding all of that would make a run at the playoffs a reality.
The playoffs are all the franchise needs. Every single regular season game will have a playoff feel to it but imagine if it were the playoffs and the Montreal Canadiens were their first round opponent. Imagine if the Jets made the playoffs and the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Calgary Flames or the Edmonton Oilers didn’t. The playoffs will bring not only added excitement but it will also bring in some added revenue. The playoffs might make Winnipeg a destination for players to join a rising franchise. T he playoffs might bring in the franchise player or that franchise face to the team. There is no Dale Hawerchuk or Teemu Selanne on this team. If only Selanne would sign with the Jets: but that’s for another dream or discussion. Not that I am saying making the playoffs is a dream. It isn’t because it is achievable. You only have to look at the 1995-96 season and see that it is possible. The Colorado Avalanche playing their first season after leavingQuebec Citynot only made the playoffs but they won the Stanley Cup. So there is reason to be optimistic. Now if only a team would trade their all star hall of fame goaltender to the Jets mid season, that would make it easier.
The Winnipeg Jets will only have a successful season if and only if they make the playoffs.
Shahab Khan the Schoolboy
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