Over the weekend, Tim Campbell of the Winnipeg Free Press released an article on the possibility of the St. John’s Ice Caps returning to Winnipeg to serve as the primary AHL affiliate for the Winnipeg Jets. Campbell also reported that True North would have to rename the Ice Caps. Now keep in mind that nothing has been finalized in terms of the move or the name being changed to the Moose. However, the news of the possible return of the Manitoba Moose has sparked much discussion in the prairie capital, as fans and critics alike weigh in on the possibility of Winnipeg supporting two professional clubs. I am in full support of the return of the Moose and have listed my top five reasons why the team should shack up on Portage Avenue, besides the fact of being able to share a mascot:
FLUIDITY- Kevin Cheveldayoff and Paul Maurice run a specific program and expect a certain style of game night in and night out. By moving the Ice Caps, who are coached by former Moose player, Keith McCambridge, you allow both organizations and teams to get on the same page. The younger players who are in the AHL can become accustomed to how the parent club runs their ship, thus making the transition from the farm to the NHL that much easier.
TRAVEL- Tim Campbell touched on this issue in his article with respect to the recalling of players from St. John’s to Winnipeg. The capital of Newfoundland is located 4,788 kilometres away from Winnipeg. If a player goes down with an injury in the morning skate, the player who is being called up is already on the clock and lucky to arrive in time to grab a Subway sandwich before warm-ups. This would also eliminate the move of calling up a guy just in case someone gets hurt. I would love to see Patrice Cormier’s Aeroplan statement for the year. If the AHL affiliate are located in not only the same city but the same arena, it’s as easy a text message- “Hey O’Dell, bring your gear down the hall”.
FANS- I am convinced that with proper ticket pricing and marketing, the Manitoba Moose can establish a quality fan base in Winnipeg. Believe it or not- many Winnipeggers still haven’t seen a Jets game live because it just isn’t in their budget. If the Moose could offer tickets for $30.00 per game, with a student and senior rate of $25.00, Jets fans who normally couldn’t afford the approximate $60.00 for a nosebleed, would be able to take in a game. In contrast, the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL charge $12.50 for adults, $11.11 for seniors and $5.56 for youth. This also opens the door for mini-packages, birthday parties and family nights. There aren’t many instances in which I would use the Toronto Maple Leafs organization as an example but the way they have marketed the Toronto Marlies (AHL) as a family friendly event is exactly what True North needs to look at.
BUILDING COMPETITION- The term (out of sight out of mind) came to me as I read Campbell’s article on the possible return. When a player is sent down to the AHL, it is often taken as a banishment or rejection. I know what you’re thinking, “These guys are professionals, they are paid to play and this is all part of it”. All I’m saying is that there is a big difference between being sent to Utica, NY and being sent around the concourse. The fact that both teams would be playing out of the same arena also means that guys will not only be battling for ice on their own team but may be hearing the footsteps of guys like Ehlers, Petan and Morrissey a little bit louder. If a player isn’t pulling their weight they don’t have to look far to find someone who is itching to take their place. There will be a group of 23 players practicing right after you.
“ZINGER”-The fifth and final reason for wanting the Moose back in Winnipeg is a little bit self-serving. Let’s bring Craig Heisinger home. If you don’t respect the man who went from being an equipment manager to a GM, then I have no answers for you. This point also ties in a bit with fluidity, as I think it will be beneficial for the players and the executive to have all the GM’s and coaches in the same building. I believe it is a step in the right direction when considering what it will take to bring the Stanley Cup here.