Hockey Night in Canada is back … finally. In Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal.

Here in Regina, it’s on TV along with The Biggest Loser, which is hardly the same.

Anyone who has ever been to an NHL game can testify that TV can’t come close to capturing the speed and skill of the players. On TV, they look a bit disorganized and slow. In real life, they are magicians with sticks for wands.

So isn’t it time to ask (once again): If Columbus, Ohio, can have an NHL team, why not Saskatchewan? I’m sure nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina, but why not bring the NHL home to a place where the kids start playing the game when they’re knee-high to a gopher?

The NHL may not be in Saskatchewan, but Saskatchewan is certainly in the NHL — there are 50 players born in Saskatchewan scattered across the league’s 30 teams, including big names Ryan Getzlaf, Scott Hartnell, Jarret Stoll and Jordan Eberle, who together account for more than 500 goals.

Wouldn’t it be great if some of these guys could grow up to become stars in their own backyard? I mean, who would prefer Los Angeles to Regina in the middle of January? They’d be lined up to play here.

We’ve heard all the arguments. Both Saskatoon and Regina are too small to support an NHL fan base; nobody from Columbus or Carolina would pay to watch a team from Saskatchewan; people may travel from all over the province to watch the Roughriders, but that’s in the summertime. In the winter, it often ain’t a fit night out for man nor beast.

Each of these arguments has a five-hole.

The cities may be comparatively small, but together they represent almost a half-million rabid hockey fans, more than enough to stuff an NHL-sized rink for 41 games a year. The team could alternate home games between Saskatoon and Regina, or Regina could have the football stadium and Saskatoon could have the hockey arena.

Even-Stephen.

As for the Carolina-Columbus preference problem, one is tempted to say: Who cares? But seriously, there are great hockey players on both those teams … and if you give me a minute I’ll remember who they are. The point is competitive teams are fun to watch. It doesn’t really matter where they’re from.

As for classic rivalries, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver all present possibilities as villains. And when the Montreal Canadiens come to town, nothing else will matter, not to mention the other representatives of the original six: Boston, Detroit, Chicago, New York. Even the chronically misspelled Toronto Maple Leafs.

So, why wait for one of those hockey billionaires to spin the wheel? If we’re not careful, the next NHL franchise could go to Hamilton or Halifax or …

It’s our turn. Hockey Night in Canada should live here, too.

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