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Winnipeg vs. Atlanta: Tale of the tape

There's partying in Winnipeg. There's not much crying in Atlanta. That means the NHL is better off after Tuesday's announcement that the Georgia club is moving to Manitoba, right?

Well ...

Let's examine the two cities and their situations, with a few Buffalo numbers thrown in for reference.

Population

Atlanta metro area: 5,268,860

Winnipeg metro area: 694,668

Buffalo metro area: 1,135,509

Winnipeg, based on the 2006 census, is the eighth-largest city in Canada. That's nice, but not compared to the ninth-largest city in the United States, based on the 2010 census. Obviously, Atlanta has a bigger pool of potential fans.

Attendance

Atlanta: 13,469

Winnipeg: 15,015

The folks in Winnipeg are expected to sell out every game next season. Atlanta's Philips Arena was embarrassingly empty during the Sabres' two visits this season, a common occurrence for much of the season.

However, the arena in Winnipeg is the smallest in the NHL, and it isn't getting any bigger. They're going to average 15,015 fans. That would have ranked 24th in the league this season.

Atlanta topped that Winnipeg average in six of its 11 seasons. The Thrashers' inaugural year of 1999-2000 was their best, with an average of 17,206. The only year they made the playoffs (2006-07) they drew 16,240.

Winnipeg would have had better attendance than Atlanta during the last three seasons. The Thrashers, however, had terrible ownership. For anyone who doesn't think that has an impact, here's a reminder that the "Hockey Heaven" of Buffalo averaged only 13,776 in 2002-03 during the Rigas debacle.

"I'd rather play in a rink that holds 15,000 and feels like it's 20,000 than go into a building with 20,000 seats and just 5,000 fans," Vancouver's Alex Burrows said.

Ticket prices

Atlanta season-ticket packages: $599 to $9,900

Winnipeg season-ticket packages: $1,755 to $5,805

Atlanta single-game price (in 2009-10): $10 to $300

Winnipeg single-game price: $39 to $129

Winnipeg average ticket: $82

Buffalo average ticket: $44.85

It's going to cost a lot of cash to see the NHL in Winnipeg.

Weather

Atlanta averages in January: High 50, Low 29

Winnipeg averages in January: High 8, Low minus-10

Buffalo averages in January: High 31, Low 18

"Winnipeg is one of those sneaky little prairie towns everybody complains about," former Sabre Grant Ledyard said. "When you grow up with it, you don't think much about it. But you go away and come back home and you're like, 'It's so cold here.'"

Ease of travel

Atlanta: Busiest airport in the world

Winnipeg: Nonstop service to 10 NHL cities

One-way flight Buffalo to Winnipeg: $332, with 5 hours, 43 minutes of travel time

One-way flight Buffalo to Atlanta: $84, with 2:05 of travel time

NHL teams fly on charters, so travel isn't much of an issue. For fans, though, flights to Atlanta are easy to book and usually nonstop. Fans in 20 NHL cities will need a connection to reach Winnipeg.

Love of hockey

OK, so there's no tangible data for this one. Let's just say if there were, Winnipeg would win in a landslide.

"Hockey is their passion," former Sabres defenseman Teppo Numminen said.

---John Vogl

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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl | jvogl@buffnews.com

About Sabres Edge


Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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