I visited Winnipeg this past 4th of July weekend. It had been two years since my last visit to the city I grew up in. Winnipeg is still Jets crazy three years after the city’s NHL rebirth. I got to thinking as someone who now lives in Minnesota and who is an NHL fan, which NHL market would I rather live in.
I’m interested in factors that relate to hockey not politics
I love both cities and I’m a fan of both teams but the edge does go to the Wild as far as my allegiances are concerned. I do live in the Twin Cities, so the exposure to the Wild is far greater.
To analyze the cities I’m focusing on the weather (It has to be a winter climate to be a true hockey city), the fan bases and the talent pool (both future and present) for both cities.
Let’s get right down to it. Both cities have brutal winters, making hockey a hotbed (or should I say coldbed) of excitement for the residents of both cities. Winnipeg does have longer and colder winters than its Twin Cities counterpart and the winters can definitely take its toll on a person, even if there’s hockey to fall back on.
Winnipeggers are a tough breed and playing hockey in -30 (Celsius) weather is not unheard of for youngsters. In Winnipeg hockey goes hand in hand with the cold weather.
Both cities are among the coldest metropolitan climates in their countries but Winnipeg’s winters are definitely colder.
The edge in this category has to go to Minnesota. The weather is a little more bearable, yet it’s cold enough to enjoy hockey and be part of the great outdoors.
Fanatical Fans/Great Hockey Markets
Both cities are mad about their hockey. Minnesota’s fan base is arguably the greatest in the USA. I believe that the team has the strongest fan base in the country. They don’t call Minnesota the State of Hockey for nothing.
Hockey is in the fans blood in Minnesota. The love of the game in Minnesota made the transition from Winnipeg to Minneapolis an easy one for me. The fans have supported the Minnesota Wild since it became an NHL market in 2000. There is no doubt that the Twin Cities and the state of Minnesota has embraced this team. This is not a bandwagon fan base.
Minnesota hockey fans are also extremely knowledgeable about the game. So they don’t only love the game, they understand it as well.
The 2014 Sochi Games showed Minnesotans one thing. Minnesota is the Mecca of hockey. Minnesotans had the highest concentration of players on Team USA (men’s team), proving that hockey insiders consider Minnesota a great place to recruit players from.
Now let’s turn our attention to Winnipeg. Like other Canadian cities, hockey is a religion of sorts. Hockey rules all other sports. Canadians love their hockey and are passionate about it. Winnipeggers are typical Canadians. They breathe and sleep hockey. Hockey is king in Winnipeg.
When Winnipeg returned as an NHL market with the new Winnipeg Jets, Winnipeggers snatched up season tickets in just hours. It was an instant love affair between fan and team.
The passion, love and loyalty displayed by Winnipeggers for the Jets 3 years ago have not subsided. They are crazy hockey fans and they are not ashamed to display their love for their team.
Hockey players have commented about how hard it is to play in Winnipeg. The fans are loud, boisterous and passionate. Hockey players from other teams have commented about how amazing the atmosphere is at the MTS Centre.
Winnipeg Jets fans also travel all over North America to watch their team play. I argue that Winnipeg is among the top 5 NHL markets in the NHL. There is no doubt that the Winnipeg Jets have some of the most loyal fans in the NHL.
The edge has to go to Winnipeg.
Future of the Team/Talent Pool
The Minnesota Wild’s GM, Chuck Fletcher has done a great job in the past few seasons. He’s made blockbuster moves that have helped Minnesota to become a relevant team. Two offseasons ago, he signed the two hottest free agents of the summer in Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. It was an unexpected move and one that changed the club’s future. The team became more competitive and it was starting to have the building blocks that are needed for the team to be successful.
In that season’s trade deadline, Fletcher made a trade for Jason Pominville. I loved that trade at the time and I still think that it was a great move by Fletcher.
Recently Fletcher signed the hottest free agent of this summer in Thomas Vanek. It had been rumored during the playoffs that the Wild would make a move for Vanek in the offseason. Those rumors proved to be true and the Wild added some extra punch that was missing during the playoffs.
The playoffs proved that the Wild have some young talent. There’s tons of potential for both the present and the future of the club. I believe that the 2014/15 season will be a very successful one for Minnesota.
I don’t have much to say for Winnipeg and its future. That’s up in the air. The Jets have taken the approach of drafting and developing from within. Only time will tell if that approach will work. In the Jets first three seasons they have failed to make the playoffs.
Winnipeg Jets fans have been remarkably patient with the team but that will change unless the team’s management finds a way to develop this team and transform into a winner.
It’s not like the team can make blockbuster moves like the Wild. Who wants to play in Winterpeg? How many players have Winnipeg Jets listed as a team in their no trade clauses? My guess is that Winnipeg is not a desirable market for NHL players and that really concerns me. Of course winning some playoff series can change all of that but the Jets need to make the playoffs and then worry about winning a series.
I think we are about 7-10 years away from seeing a Jets team that will tinker with success. Will the fan base be able to tolerate that? Well they are used to that. Jets version 1.0 wasn’t a winner and the fans still supported the team. Winnipeggers know all too well the horrible feeling of losing their hockey team and I believe they will support the Jets through thick and thin.
The edge goes to Minnesota.
Minnesota +2 vs. Winnipeg +1.
I think both cities are great NHL markets. They both have hockey climates and great fans. The future of both teams seems to be different. Minnesota is winning now and looks to have a great future. Winning for the Jets seems to be a long way off.
I might be biased since I live in Minnesota but the edge for me (politics aside) goes to Minnesota.
Anthony Bloch (AKA Sportmentary) – is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Sportmentary Online Sports Talk.
In addition to running his blog, Anthony writes a weekly column for Last Word on Sports and writes about the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.