SUN Hockey Pool

Attendance numbers surprising

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:42 PM ET

An esteemed colleague has a couple of stock answers for anyone who gets excited about sports leagues in the first part of the season.

"It's early," and "It's a long season."

Those oft-repeated cliches are indeed true in this instance, but it's interesting to look at some of the attendance figures so far in the new NHL.

That particular numbers game will hold the key to any possibility of an NHL team moving to Winnipeg some day. If any franchise is going to relocate, it will be one that figures on selling more tickets elsewhere than in its current location.

So, it stands to reason that for any team to even be remotely interested in moving to Winnipeg, it would need to be selling less than 15,000 tickets on average. That is the capacity of the MTS Centre, a building which is a far-sight smaller than any in the NHL currently. Time will tell if it's considered too small, but there are certainly people out there who believe it's adequate for NHL hockey, including Manitoba Moose owner Mark Chipman.

At any rate, there are currently nine NHL teams averaging less than 15,000 fans for home games.

Some of them (Carolina, Nashville, Anaheim) are to be expected. Others (Chicago, Buffalo, New Jersey, St. Louis, Washington, New York Islanders) are not.

The general belief is it will be a team like Carolina or Nashville which pulls the plug first. The Predators were 8-0-1-0 to start this season, but were averaging jut 14,306 (83.6% capacity) through five home games. They drew just more than 12,000 earlier this week.

The Hurricanes are also off to a good start (6-2-1-0) on the ice, but are drawing just 13,742 (73.4%).

Shockingly, the absolute worst attendance figures so far are in Washington, where they are drawing 12,312 (65.9%) and Chicago, where a once-rabid group of loyal fans have abandoned the Blackhawks. Whether it's because of World Series fever or lockout hangover, Chicago is averaging only 12,696 for a league-worst capacity percentage of just 62%.

Now it's not likely the Original Six Blackhawks will ever move, even if Billfold Wirtz has less money to swim in these days, but NHL owners as a group are not likely to put up with teams dragging down revenues in this day and age. The bottom feeders will be under pressure to move to the promised land.

You know what? It's early and it's a long season.

But if these trends keep up, the moving trucks might not be far behind.

WINDY CITY WONDER: Hats off to Ozzie Guillen and the Chicago White Sox. Awesome pitching plus spectacular defence plus timely hitting equals an unbeatable juggernaut. Isn't it just fitting though, for Chicago to win the World Series and have three-quarters of the city's residents (Cubs fans) be unhappy about it? ... Now if only they had kept the roof closed in Houston, the Astros might have scored a run in their last 15 innings ... First Boston breaks the curse, then the poorer cousins from Chicago. Hell, it says here the Cubs should go out on a limb next year and change their name to the Blue Sox ... Just 6,028 fans at the MTS Centre for a Moose game this week. You'd suggest the new-building honeymoon is over until you remember that hockey has always been a tough sell in Winnipeg before the snow flies ... Heard a broadcaster describe a penalty shot as the most exciting play in hockey. Not so much nowadays with all these shootouts. Now it's pretty much commonplace.

GETTING KICKS: Wasn't it just perfect that Jon Ryan was the Winnipeg Blue Bombers best offensive player in last week's 41-1 embarrassment at B.C. Place? Ryan has been the Bombers best player all year, but this time he was even their scoring leader. In fact, Ryan booted about a 90-yarder early in the game which didn't count and the Bombers ended up with worse field position after another two-and-out. Next time, the Bombers should just decline the roughing the kicker penalty when Ryan lets one go. Seriously ... And now, introducing the Bombers player who most lived up to his number last week: Keith Stokes ... That dude kicking a 50-yard field goal for a million bucks was awesome. And to think, when he missed the 20-, 30- and 40-yarders I was wondering how Paul McCallum managed to get in the contest.


Videos

Photos