Fifteen years after it lost its professional hockey team to the U.S. and the Arizona desert, the Canadian city of Winnipeg is again home to a NHL franchise. The NHL's Atlanta Thrashers will be packing their bags and relocating to the Great White North:
"True North Sports & Entertainment, led by its partners, Winnipeg native Mark Chipman and Canadian billionaire David Thomson, are buying the money-losing Thrashers from Atlanta Spirit Group.
Alongside NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Mr. Chipman unveiled the deal at a news conference at Winnipeg's MTS Centre arena to thunderous applause and cheers from crowds gathered outside.
"It's nice to be back in Winnipeg after all these years," Mr. Bettman said. "This pursuit reflects the passion of our fans in Winnipeg."
While the Winnipeg Jets struggled financially and mounting financial troubles forced the move to Phoenix, there's no doubt that the city is a great hockey town. Let's hope the second time is a charm for the NHL and the city of Winnipeg.
This move got me thinking -- what would be the college hockey equivalent of the Thrashers' move back to Winnipeg? Which college campuses and hockey cities that Division I programs once called home need a Winnipeg-like second chance?
Chicago. The Illinois-Chicago Flames fielded a D1 hockey program for 30 years from 1966-96 before folding the program in the summer of 1996. Other than the annual Shillelagh Tournament -- a tournament hosted by Notre Dame in nearby Hoffman Estates -- there hasn't been much college hockey action to be had in Chi-town. Hopefully this changes with the creation of the Big Ten Hockey Conference and either Northwestern or Illinois follow Penn State's lead by forming a D1 program and joining the conference.
Philadelphia. Both UPenn (1898-1978) and Villanova (1929-1998) fielded varsity men's ice hockey at one point, and Philadelphia is one of the better hockey cities in the country that no longer calls a D1 college hockey program home. However, there is hope for college hockey in PA, with Penn State to join the ranks of D1 programs and back-to-back Frozen Fours being held in the Keystone State in 2013 and 2014.
Syracuse. College hockey and upstate New York just go together like peanut butter and jelly, burgers and fries, and unicorns and glitterrrrrr. Sure, there's college hockey in nearby Hamilton, NY, but Colgate sucks. What better way to grow the sport than get "New York's College Team" on the ice? 'Cuse would also be a decent target for possible Hockey East expansion if the Orange got serious about D1 college hockey.
New York. Iona gave it a shot for a while. So did St. John's. Sure, MAAC hockey didn't last very long, but am I foolish to think that college hockey could work again in New York City? I suppose there's Army in nearby West Point, but the Black Knights haven't been all that competitive in Atlantic Hockey. I guess you don't need a men's college hockey program in New York if Syracuse starts one. I mentioned that they are "New York City's College Team," right?
St. Louis. Because the Billikens tried the whole varsity college hockey thing for a brief period of time and I'm sick of the CCHA hosting a regional where the closest conference member is roughly 400 miles away.