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- Canadian sports journalist
The Saskatoon Jets? Even temporarily, that doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.
According to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, the idea of relocating the Winnipeg Jets on a short-term basis to Manitoba's prairie neighbours and the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon had been kicked around as COVID-19 restrictions bar fans from attending games at Canada Life Centre.
Unfortunately, at least for the sake of conversation, that idea has been shut down, as per the latest from Friedman.
Friedman reported Thursday night that the Jets sent out a survey to season-ticket holders, which included a query about temporarily leaving their home to take up residence in a province that is without the same capacity and live event restrictions. Scott Billeck of the Winnipeg Sun reports that Jets fans weren't too keen on the idea.
The #NHLJets will not move home games out of Winnipeg after fan feedback to the idea came back negative.
40% of respondents to a survey sent to season tickets holders yesterday disapproved of the idea, while 30% were neutral and 30% were supportive.
— Scott Billeck (@ScottBilleck) January 7, 2022
While perhaps not palatable at first blush — or evidently at all — the simplest way in the immediate term to have Jets fans once again witness live action in-person (and for the franchise, earn all-important gate revenue) could have been to pick up and leave, and encourage supporters to embark on the eight-hour drive (or hour-and-a-half flight) west into a province with a more lenient stance on gatherings and a stadium that can seat more than 15,000.
As it stands now, the general public is not able to attend Jets games through at least Jan. 11, though it seems likely that an extension will be implemented. Surely the Jets would have aimed to gain some clarity on just how long fans would have been barred from Canada Life Centre before making a decision on a potential move.
Masking and proof of vaccination are the only requirements on gatherings as it stands in Saskatchewan, but it's worth wondering if that might change if the Jets had explored the option more seriously. Because while there aren't the same restrictions on gatherings in the province, the absence of major sports events at this time in the calendar season perhaps hasn't provided a need for such a decision from the local government.
While fans pack arenas south of the border, all seven Canadian teams are dealing with handcuffing restrictions and postponed dates in response to the Omicron wave. Albertan teams are fortunate to be running at 50 percent capacity, while most others have a complete ban on fan attendance.
It's a major issue in each individual local market, but also the NHL, a league trying to dig out of a financial hole, and which leans so heavily on its seven Canadian franchises.
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