Student-faculty paper examines NHL team relocations

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An independent study project that student-athlete Wade Poplawski ’11 worked on with economics professor Michael O’Hara has turned out to have timely implications.

Poplawski, an economics major and a member of the university’s hockey team, had approached O’Hara, his advisor and a Raiders fan who attends every home hockey game, last academic year about his interest in examining which are the best prospective locations for teams in the National Hockey League.

The research project led to a co-authored paper that is being finalized for submission but has already drawn interest from The Hockey News magazine, which has interviewed both Poplawski and O’Hara.

The Colgate researchers examined the factors that make a location most fitting for an NHL team. At the time of their research, rumors were circulating of a possible relocation of either the Atlanta Thrashers or the Phoenix Coyotes to Winnipeg, Canada, since both teams are currently on the bottom in terms of their potential to generate revenue.

As a native of Winnipeg, Poplawski was curious to study the prospects of an NHL team moving to his hometown.

The research model that they employed showed that Winnipeg would be a good market for a team under the current NHL structure, and that out of all the teams in the league, either a Thrashers or Coyotes move to Winnipeg would make the most sense economically.

The Coyotes were considered the favorite to relocate, especially because the team had been a long-standing franchise in Winnipeg before moving to the Southwest in 1997. But after months of speculation, True North Sports and Entertainment formally announced today it will purchase the Thrashers and move the team north.

O’Hara said he enjoyed studying the economics of professional sports, a field he had not ventured into previously. He was quick to add that despite both their interests in hockey, and particularly Poplawski’s personal stake in Winnipeg, they were very careful to let the data and conclusions stand on their own merits.

“I think it’s another great example of how Colgate’s size and focus allow students and faculty members to work so closely on projects such as this,” said O’Hara.