The City of Winnipeg finally received the long-awaited return of NHL hockey just three years ago, and another league may be coming to town in the near future. The Western Hockey League could be returning to Winnipeg as early as the 2014-15 season, as a local group is interested in purchasing an existing franchise.
It has been well known that the Lethbridge Hurricanes have been struggling financially for the past few seasons. Last week, reports surfaced that a group of potential buyers from Winnipeg want to purchase the club, and move it back to the city.
The Hurricanes franchise originated in Winnipeg, where it was under three different names from 1967-1977: Winnipeg Jets, Winnipeg Clubs, and Winnipeg Monarchs. The WHL returned to Winnipeg in 1980, but only lasted four years, as the Winnipeg Warriors moved to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan following the 1984 season.
The WHL currently is a 22-team league, with 17 Canadian clubs and five American squads. A WHL team in the City of Winnipeg would be the most Eastern in the league geographically, a title currently held by the Brandon Wheat Kings. They would likely play in the East division, which currently includes the Wheat Kings, Regina Pats, Swift Current Broncos, Moose Jaw Warriors, Saskatoon Blades, and Prince Albert Raiders.
As one of the three leagues that make up the Canadian Hockey League, the WHL is a goldmine for future NHL talent. Some of the Jets’ most promising prospects currently play in the ‘Dub': defenseman Josh Morrissey (Prince Albert), center Nic Petan (Spokane), and goalie Eric Comrie (Tri-City). All three are expected to play in the AHL for the St. John’s Ice Caps by next season, however. Notable Jets that are WHL alumni include Evander Kane and James Wright (Vancouver Giants), as well as Andrew Ladd (Calgary Hitmen).
The team has been rumored to be named the Moose, after the former AHL team that vacated the city when the Jets moved in. The club would likely share the MTS Centre with the Jets, something the Edmonton Oil Kings (Rexall Place) and Calgary Hitmen (Scotiabank Saddledome) do in their respective cities.
The WHL will be a great option for hockey fans that don’t have the privilege of attending Jets’ games regularly. The move would mean that Winnipeg would be home to a Major Junior, Junior A, (Winnipeg Blues) and NHL club, giving a hockey-crazy city more of their favourite sport.
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