Saturday, August 25, 2012

Most Lovable Sports Franchise in North America

I'm still in the honeymoon phase when it comes to my beloved Winnipeg Jets. Although I now live in Minneapolis, I'm still a homer. I waited 16 years for the day I could cheer for an NHL franchise in Winnipeg. To my delight, I can still cheer for a team named the Winnipeg Jets.

I've been reflecting a lot lately and decided to do my version of the most lovable sports franchise in North America. Of course I'm biased, so I pick the Winnipeg Jets. There were other teams that I couldn't overlook. Two teams fit that bill. They are the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Sounders.

As far as the Packers are concerned, if it weren't for how annoying Packers fans are, they could have been considered for the top spot. Their fans play a huge part in considering the team as a whole. I truly can't stand Packers fans. So they don't make the grade. Trying to put my biases aside for the sake of maintaining some credibility, I rank the Packers at #3.

The reason is that they are the smallest team in North American sports, yet they are able to support an NFL team. I give the fans of the team and the people of Wisconsin a lot of credit for their team remaining a public entity. Good Job Green Bay.

Now for the Sounders. The fans are the reason the Sounders are being considered. Seattle Sounders fans are the greatest in the MLS and an argument could be made for calling them the best in North American sports. The problem with the Sounders is that they play in the MLS. It's still a relatively young league and the fan base of the league as a whole needs to increase. I know that's not fair but it's reality. The Sounders receive the #2 spot on my most lovable franchises list.

That brings us to the Winnipeg Jets. They are the most lovable team in North American sports. Winnipeg is the smallest market in the NHL, coming in with a population around 760,000 . That actually makes the Jets one of the smallest teams in all of North American sports.

Due to the recession in Canada and the plummeting of the Canadian dollar, the original Jets moved to Phoenix after the 1996 NHL season. There was void in the hockey mad city. The mood was horrible. I remember visiting Winnipeg on my trips back home from Minneapolis. It brought me to tears. The once proud city was depressed.

Fast forward to the early to mid 2000's. An economic boom hit Winnipeg. The resource rich province of Manitoba, coupled with economic growth in the province's largest city of Winnipeg, changed the dynamic and outlook of the city.

Winnipeg started off with the Manitoba Moose who ended up playing in the AHL. Winnipeg Jets co-owner Mark Chipman put in place a model to lure an NHL franchise to Winnipeg. After years of building the moose into a model franchise and working with the NHL, True North Sports & Entertainment bought the Atlanta Thrashers and moved them to Winnipeg.

In order to prove to the NHL that Winnipeg was a viable market, the new Winnipeg team sold tickets over a few days period. In the end, all 15,000 tickets had been sold out in minutes, with season ticket holders committing for 3-5 year terms.

In my mind, that was one of the most incredible moments in sports history. Winnipegers put their money where their mouths were. Winnipeg Jets fans are extremely proud of their hockey, their team and their city. Winnipeg Jets fans travel well. They are loud and both Jets players and their opponents claim that Jets fans play a big part in the success of the Jets at home.

For Jets players, they can provide the needed support to give the team an edge. For opposing teams, the fans can be incredibly annoying and loud. It's amazing to watch a Jets game. Their fans are amazing.

Due to the Jets playing in a hockey mad city, one of the smallest markets in North America and having the best fans in sports, Winnipeg is the most lovable franchise in North America. Go Jets Go!

Most Lovable Sports Franchise
Which North American Sports Team is the Most Lovable?

Winnipeg Jets
Seattle Sounders
Green Bay Packers

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