SASKATOON – Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says talk of an NHL team for Saskatoon is very speculative.
Hockey fans have been tweeting up a storm since TSN journalist Bob McKenzie wrote a column musing about the possibility of an NHL team relocating to Saskatoon.
But the premier suggested Friday that it’s too soon to lace up the skates.
“Obviously this is very hypothetical and in early stages and sort of the stuff of rumours right now,” Wall told the Business News Network (BNN) in an interview from London, England.
“But I’m pretty biased. I would wonder why the NHL’s not already in Canada’s greatest province. I think we produce more per capita NHL players than anywhere else in the country. And obviously it’s a hotbed of hockey.
“If Winnipeg can do it, I like our chances.”
A recent report from the Conference Board of Canada concluded that the country could sustain as many as nine National Hockey League franchises. The report from the Ottawa-based think-tank said Quebec City and Hamilton would be the most suitable cities.
The researchers looked at population size, market wealth, corporate presence and the level playing field created by a Canadian dollar that hovers around par with its U.S. counterpart. They ruled out any area with a population lower than 750,000.
Report co-author Mario Lefebvre said there were questions about Halifax and Saskatoon and Regina, but he said those markets are too small for teams to survive.
Saskatoon estimates its population is about 234,200. The city is home to the Saskatoon Blades, a junior team in the Western Hockey League.
Wall pointed out that the province supported the world junior hockey championships when they were held in Saskatoon and Regina in 2010. That included making upgrades to Saskatoon’s Credit Union Centre.
But the premier said it’s too soon to talk about what might be needed for an NHL team.
“We always look at reasonable proposals, based on a need for recreational infrastructure, for those kind of facilities. But I don’t make that comment in the context of this NHL speculation. I think that’d be way ahead of ourselves,” he told BNN.