One big positive about the possibility of the Phoenix Coyotes returning to Winnipeg is that Edmonton would no longer be perceived by players as the second-least desirable destination in the NHL, which it now is.

Loud and proud Edmontonians don’t like that perception, but civic pride doesn’t make it any less true or any less rampant among NHL players, all of whom get a choice of where they play as unrestricted free agents.

Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, fresh from costing himself millions of dollars in contract money as a pending unrestricted free agent with a Swiss cheese impression against the Detroit Red Wings, stuck the blade into Winnipeg good and deep, then twisted, when talking to reporters after what stands to be the last NHL game in Phoenix Wednesday.

What Bryzgalov, the Knob Hockey hero but series zero, said about the city of Winnipeg was every bit as unflattering as the NHLPA survey of last January in which 20 per cent of 318 players polled rated Edmonton as the place where they’d least like to play. The New York Islanders finished at the bottom of the destination barrel at 27 per cent.


"You don’t want to go to Winnipeg, right?" Bryzgalov said after the Coyotes lost to Detroit. "Not many people live there, not many Russian people there. Plus it’s cold. There’s no excitement except the hockey. No park, no entertaining for the families, for the kids. It’s going to be tough life for your family.

"I’ve been there for just once, maybe twice, when I play in minors. It was really cold," Bryzgalov said. "I used the tunnels between the buildings to get to the arena. Because it was minus 40-something. Real cold."

Winnipeg, like Edmonton, has geography, size and climate going against it. On top of that, Winnipeg has a small building, while Edmonton has an old building. Neither city is seen as a bustling and thriving metropolitan destination compared to Vancouver, Montreal or Toronto or several US markets.

Winnipeg is a damn good hockey town, just like this neck of the woods is. But, if Winnipeg does return to the NHL, it’ll be just as hard-pressed to attract quality free agents as Edmonton has been during its five straight years out of the playoffs and back-to-back 30th-place finishes.

Building a winning franchise will help mitigate the negatives — it works just fine in Detroit — but that, obviously, will take time, whether you’re talking about Winnipeg or Edmonton.

I’d rather spend vacation time, and do, in Scottsdale or Glendale or greater Phoenix than in Winnipeg, but I hope the Jets are back. The NHL needs good hockey towns.


— While I don’t expect him to cough up the Oilers draft list before the scouting staff meets and gets on the same page, I’m going to put in a call to Stu MacGregor in the next few days. Lots of takes on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and the other top prospects around here. I want his.

— Does the math still love Dustin Penner more than old school reporters do? I’m not seeing any underlying numbers to mitigate the no-show he’s pulled after a promising start with the Los Angeles Kings. Unsurprising.

— Same thing when it comes to getting a handle on Colten Teubert. I’ll try to get Kevin Lowe’s take on Teubert, although his look at him has been limited by an injury that’s kept him out of the Hamilton series.

— Cameron Abney got an entry-level deal from the Oilers today. Big kid might be a factor in the Oilers bottom-six mix in a year or two if he picks up another step and puts some meat on the big frame of his.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    Robin Brownlee wrote:

    “– While I don’t expect him to cough up the Oilers draft list before the scouting staff meets and gets on the same page, I’m going to put in a call to Stu MacGregor in the next few days. Lots of takes on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and the other top prospects around here. I want his.”

    In the words of Kenny Powers, “FINALLY, MOTHERF***ER!!”

    Would be nice for Stu to give you enough to write an entire piece on. Although I’m confident you can make it work either way.

    Really looking forward to this!


  • Dan the Man

    Maybe someone should inform Bryzgalov that if more NHL cities were like Phoenix his salary would be more comparable to an AHL salary than the boat load of cash he’s being paid now.

  • wyseguy

    I’ve coached hockey with a recently retired NHL player the last few years. He’s told me that players definitely take into account the city when they choose which team to play for and Edmonton is usually at the bottom of their list. He said that the Oilers have to pay a big premium to get players to come.

    I know you’ve all heard this info already, but since a couple of comments above wondered if the city of Edmonton was really an issue………well, in the eyes of an NHL millionaire it is.

  • Ned Braden

    What? did someone say they need to make the place of work more attractive for players. I’m sorry but anyone making multi millions a years doesn’t need to be pampered by the team. I think the players, teams, and fans forget that these guys are getting paid huge amounts of money to play a game while the majority of society has to work hard 5+ days a week, min of 8 hours a day, and only get paid a fraction of what these guys get. Even a low end player makes approx $700k. How many professions do you know that have an annual salary anywhere near this?

    • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

      Teams that treat “pampered” players better increase their chances of attracting the best players.

      If you’re going to get your money no matter which one of the 30 teams you play for, then it comes down to other factors when you become an unrestricted free agent — chance to win, quality of life, travel, climate etc.

      What does the reality of every Joe Grunt and working stiff out there have to do with anything?

      • Peterborough

        Nice article RB. I love E city. I love Whyte Av. But anyone who thinks a player would choose to play here over LA or Tampa everything else being equal is crazy. However Winipeg is the WORST city close a mil in Canada. Bad crime no real money and its in Manitoba the worst province in Canada. Its a hole, period. The Native problem there is out of this would and no one has a clue what to do about it. Its a sad fact that the government has abused them for years and now its such a mess there that you have town like Thompson that are a-kin to third world living.

        Edmonton will seem like shangra-la compared to. It’s like standing next to a bunch of fat guys at the bar, hot by comparison.

        PS I’d apologize to anyone who lives there, but you know as well as I do, its the sad truth.

      • Peterborough

        Easy, without them and their support for the sport of hockey they wouldn’t be making thier multimillions. If fans stopped going to NHL games teams would not be able to pay the players the salaries they are getting now because there would be no use for the team.

        Thats reality, the only reason they get to play the game as a profession is because of the fans. Without them they would be playing in beer leagues after working their day jobs.

        • Easy? Your remark, like the original comment about “pampered” players, has nothing to do with the subject.

          Edmonton has a team. It’s not leaving. Now, back to the topic of the factors that go into the decision by free agents whether to come to Edmonton or not . . .

  • Ned Braden

    Winnipeg isn’t a bad place to live at all. It’s freezing cold in January-February, but it’s Canada, wear an f’n sweater. If you’re making $1-7 million I’m sure you can afford to buy yourself a warm jacket, some mittens and a tuque.

    • Ned Braden

      And if I was making $1 – $7 million and got to choose to live in Tampa Bay, Miami, LA, Anahiem, San Jose, Atlanta, Dallas, New York …. etc. Why would I choose to live in Winnipeg? The only reason I would live in Winnipeg was if it increased my odds of winning the Stanley Cup and even then it had better increase them significantly for me to move there of if they paid me significantly more than anybody else.

      • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

        Hockey is about winning. Have you ever been to Detroit? It’s the biggest craphole on the continent, yet they get any and every free agent they want, well below market value. No one moves to Detroit because it’s a beautiful city, they go there to win. Pittsburgh is a god awful place to be too.

        Atlanta is a terrible example, look at all of the elite players they’ve had who’ve bolted out of town as quick as they could? No one stays there no matter how much money the team throws at them. Same with Florida and NYI. Even Nashville can’t attract big name free agents.

        If you’re a pro athlete and care more about the weather than winning, you need to retire and make room for someone who is there to play hard and win, wherever that may be.

  • Ned Braden

    I would have to disagree with the comments on here stating that players don’t want to come to Edmonton because of KLowe. How much interaction do you think he has with players on a daily basis now? I would guess he didn’t speak to most guys on the team more than twice all season.

    I was born and raised here but if someone offered me the same money to do the same job and live the same lifestyle in Phoenix, Atlanta, Florida or any place warm and sunny year round I would be out of here in a second!

    NHL players that have no bond to the city (family, friends etc), why would they move here when you can go somewhere else and do the exact same thing and make the same money. There would only be one reason – TO WIN. Edmonton will always have a hard time attracting and retaining top end talent but winning is the only thing that will help.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      No doubt, it’s a weak, weak excuse for the Lowe haters to cling too.

      One of the few guys that actually had legit reason to be pissed at Lowe came back when Lowe was here, so I doubt the other 99% that have no reason too would really care who the president is.

  • 9 Inches Uncut


    I think Teubert played game 2 and 3 of this series in OKC. Missed game 1 as a healthy scratch and got injured in game 3. Apparently played very well in both games.

    Did you get a chance to find out from Whitney or anyone else the likeliness of 100% healthy feet going forward?


  • positivebrontefan

    So the Phoenix doesnt really rise from the ashes after all.
    The Manitoba Coyotes has a nice ring to it.
    I hope we dont cheap out on the arena to stay in budget, I want state of the art, best in the league. The downtown is starting to take shape.
    SC will look mighty good on the top line in the Oilerdome for many years to come.

  • Everyone loves this nostalgic feeling when talking about the Jets, and I enjoy it a bit myself. Who doesn’t like that jersey and color scheme, or remembering Selanne shoot his glove out of the air. But I honestly don’t see what is making people think this is going to be a slam dunk and the team is going to stay in Winnipeg forever. How is Winnipeg much different this time around than it was 13 years ago? Smallest building in the league? Check. Mediocre economy? Check. Middle of the pack team? Check.

    Winnipeggers will obviously be incredibly excited to have NHL hockey back in their arctic town. Let’s be generous and say for the first two seasons they sell out every game. Great. But what about 3, 4 years down the road when the team keeps piling up 9th place finishes and first round playoff exits. Are the fans going to still be as rabidly interested in a bubble team? And with inflation it’s way more expensive to go to a hockey game than it was 13 years ago. So again with the economy in the crapper how’s that going to help? I understand it’s an awesome hockey town and a loyal fan base, but does any of that matter when people can’t afford to go to the games?

    It’s fun to relive the 90’s and those feelings of nostalgia are awesome. I’m sure it’ll be really fun to see a team in Winnipeg again and watch a legit hockey fan base actually fill the building most nights. But I honestly don’t think it’s going to be any different than what just happened in Phoenix. Is it really worth relocating a team just to have them move again in 8, 9, 10 years? (Not that I think there should be a team in Phoenix, I don’t). I don’t think so. Hopefully I’m wrong and this potential Winnipeg team will stand strong and proud for the foreseeable future, and it’ll be awesome and fun for everybody. I won’t hold my breath though.

  • 9 Inches Uncut

    Eventually, players will have to come to the realization that they have to play in places where hockey can make money or they won’t be playing at all.

  • Mantastic

    Back in the 80 players were dying to play in Edmonton and then K. Lowe came to town. Remember that RB. You are going to talk to K.Lowe? Ask him one thing for me please” When is he going to leave town so free agents would want to come to town?” Would you please do that for all of us? Please!!!!

      • 9 Inches Uncut

        How many examples would you like just to prove the point that players that you are talking about are an exception that proves the rule? Read all the comments above and imagine that we are all stupid and you are the only smart one here.

        • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

          The players I am talking about are the exception to the rule?

          We could fill a wing of the HHOF with players that were happy to bolt from the Oilers in the 80’s.

  • Reality Check to the head

    I would love to see the Jets back, Phoenix does not deserve to have a franchise, based on the lack of fans, artificial economy (tourism and retirement, not industry) and location of the Arena.

    Oilers need to get a new arena, with a number of neat perks for the players. MArk Cuban made player dressing room stalls state of the art and large (video games etc…). Things like this will help to make Edmonton an attractive option to players.

    Also, if the Oilers want to attract stars they simply need to get better and create a winning tradition. I dont even want to visit Detroit, let alone live there. I do not blame players for wanting to play elsewhere for a chance to win a cup.

  • Spydyr

    Also it was nice to see Oklahoma win 5-2 last night with Omark grabbing a goal and an assist.Hope they go all the way to the Calder cup. The experience will do the kids a world of good. Lord knows the organisation needs a winner somewhere.

  • Mantastic

    i thought teubert was a pretty good catalyst for the OKC playoffs before he got injuried. he was a healthy scratch for game 1 same with zorgs, i do believe and they were brought back for game 2 + 3 and changed the dynamics of the series. from what i’ve seen/heard/read he’s plays with a real mean streak.

    and i hope when the coyotes move back to winnipeg, they will be renamed to the Manitoba Phoenixs, because it would kind of be funny.

  • Mantastic

    Prior to the end of the lockout and KLowe declaring the Oilers open for UFA business I seem to recall Edmonton the city not being much of an issue with most of the guys leaving town. It was generally an Oilers bank account issue over and above everything else.

    I even seem to remember more than a few guys showing genuine emotion when the their time to leave arrived.

    The Oilers lost the plot after the lockout by chasing whales, hopefully they learned their lesson and in a few years Edmonton won’t look quite so undesireable anymore from more than a few different angles.

  • Spydyr

    Me thinks KLowe being here might have some bearing on why Edmonton ended up second last on the poll. Go Jets…..hope they bring Dale Hawerchuk back in some form……if the move does transpire.

    • Mitch

      I agree, look at Lowes managing style. Mike Comrie wanted out, Lowe had a deal done but wanted the bonus money back, players aren’t stupid. Doug Wieght what happened there? The Ryan Smyth contract talks and then to rip the heart right outta the guy at the deadline. It was a great run in 06, give the guy some credit. Would someone please explain why he’s still part of the organization and give a better answer then the first ever draft pick and the glory years please. Lets not forget when he ripped Burkes choice of Bobby Ryan #2 overall in 05 in a public fued with Burke over Penner contract, Ryans not a bad player in my opinion. If you were a player would you want to become part of a mess?

  • positivebrontefan

    The location portion of the argument doesn’t really hold up when you take the fact that the Islanders are at the bottom of the barrel.

    What millionaire hockey players doesn’t want to live in New York?

    I think that the absolute #1 factor in whether players want to play somewhere is how well a franchise is run and how successful it is.

  • Fist. I felt no emotion after the Penner trade; it’s hard to miss the gentle giant. Nice to see the Abney signing. I like how our bottom 6 is going to look in the future, good size and skill.