The 2004 Stanley Cup Champions will meet up with the 2010 Stanley Cup Champions on September 22 this year in a preseason game in Winnipeg. As much as I'm excited to see the Chicago Blackhawks play at the MTS Centre, this game may also be a test for Winnipeg hockey fans to see exactly what kind of attendance figures the Winnipeg market can generate when two teams with solid core players skate in downtown Winnipeg. The NHL has decided to offer up a bigger carrot compared to last year's game, and it could go a long way in determining Winnipeg's value as a hockey market.
Speaking of hockey markets, Ice Edge Holdings met with the NHL today to discuss their finances, the arena lease situation in Phoenix, the ownership deal, and anything else that either side wanted to bring up. But before we get to that, let's focus on the guaranteed NHL game in Winnipeg next season.
With a number of NHL stars from Winnipeg and its surrounding areas on the Blackhawks, it makes sense to have the Stanley Cup Champions play in the Manitoba capital. Players like Toews, Keith, and Sharp will be able to suit up in front of friends and family in their hometown for the first time in a long time, and that's probably a pretty nice bonus for the preseason.
I, for one, am a fan of this game... in principle.
I like Tampa Bay in that they have some solid veteran talent in St. Louis and Lecavalier alongside some great young talent in Stamkos and Hedman. Sure, the Lightning missed the playoffs last season, but there's a good chance that the Lightning may return to the playoffs this year with Steve Yzerman guiding the ship and a lack of fighting between cash-strapped owners.
Chicago, of course, comes in as the Stanley Cup Champions, and will get the hometown cheers due to the Manitobans on their squad. Seeing players like Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and Brent Seabrook only adds to the star power of this game.
Whether or not all of the players listed above are still with their respective teams when they arrive in Winnipeg is a bigger question. Chicago faces some serious salary cap problems as they go into this off-season, and it is rumoured that Tampa Bay may shop Vincent Lecavalier at the draft this year in order to stock up on solid, young talent.
Overall, though, this could be a very entertaining game if both teams bring their stars to play. Winnipeg will see NHL hockey again this season, if but for one game in the preseason. As one person said today, "It's better than nothing, right?"
Turning our attention south, the Coyotes seem to be closer to staying in Phoenix if not for all the question marks surrounding the only potential buyer right now in Ice Edge Holdings.
In an interview with azcentral.com, Anthony Leblanc of Ice Edge Holdings speaks a little about some of the question marks.
On Ice Edge's finances:
"Do we have to prove ourselves to the NHL? No. They already signed a letter of intent with us in December. And I can tell you, based off all the information that I've had to submit, they've done an exhaustive background check and financial check on us....On Ice Edge's idea to change the team's name from the Phoenix Coyotes to the Arizona Coyotes:
If anything it's been amusing that we're viewed as this group who has no ability to do this deal because, quite frankly, I don't know why we'd be here if we didn't.... Why would we put ourselves out here and say we're the guys who could do it if we can't do it? It's somewhat preposterous, but it is what it is."
"That was a request from the city of Glendale and I think that's actually a good idea. You have two of the teams in the city already doing that because of the fact there's a lot more to Arizona than Phoenix. We have no problem with that whatsoever. We think it's a good thing to call it the Arizona Coyotes."There are some good comments in the interview with Mr. Leblanc that indicate that Ice Edge is committed to making hockey work in Phoenix. If he and the group are true to their words, it appears that this Phoenix ownership problem might be solved sooner than later. And that's great for the team and its fans.
Ice Edge Holdings did meet with the NHL on Tuesday to shore up some more of the question marks, and it sounds as if Ice Edge is confident that it will prove its commitment in owning the Coyotes to Gary Bettman and the NHL Board of Governors.
Of course, if they somehow don't meet all the benchmarks, there could be additional preseason games in Winnipeg next season. As it stands today, however, Winnipeggers will get to see two former Stanley Cup Champions on September 22.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!