Time to weigh in on this one.
First, if Balsillie wants it in Southern Ontario, I say let him. It's his money and frankly I see it doing better there than anywhere else in Canada. Shocked I'd say that? Yeah, me too. They have the population base there to support it and it is in the Canada/northern US region where hockey is loved, understood and played so I'd have a hard time seeing it end up in the same attendance zone as Phoenix or Carolina or wherever else they are blowing the attendance stats totally out of proportion. Nothing I hate more than someone citing the "average attendance" for an arena at 15,000 and when I look in on a game they'd be lucky to be pushing 5K. There's lots of teams with good attendance and there's a handful (or two) whose numbers are blown totally out of reality.
Problematically you have Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo and Detroit all in the region. Do you really need another team there? No. But.... Toronto, no matter how craptastic they are (and I love them for sucking that badly - 1967 baby) is always a sellout. There was some contention of them getting a second team a few months ago and realistically I could see them supporting it. The population of rabid fans is there. I don't think that Ottawa (too far a drive in the wrong direction) would be impacted, nor would Detroit because of their fan base strength. Buffalo might be the most serious issue, but I don't know how many Canadian folks travel south for games.
Other Canadian markets? Don't know where else to put them. Not anywhere in the Maritimes, the population base just isn't there and I suspect the east coast is too blue collar to spring $150+ for good seats 42 times a year. Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver all have teams. Regina/Saskatoon ain't going to pull it off. There just aren't enough people and that blue collar mentality is too prevalent for the current price range. I don't think Kelowna could pull it off either due to population base issues though they'd probably more readily pay to see the games than lots of other Canadians. So the only real options aside from Southern Ontario would be Quebec City or Winnipeg. I assume they're similar in many respects.
Winnipeg, while not as much of a hole as Pittsburgh, is a nice choice for a number of reasons. I'd certainly give us the nod over Quebec City in terms of the number of bitter, angry, never letting go of the former team fans. It is stunning to live here and see how often the issue of the Jets coming back is raised. Part of that is that we definitely got shafted in many ways by Bettman when the Jets left and it was pretty much never a choice of the Jets remaining here in his mind. No matter whether an owner stepped up or not, that team was going to Phoenix. At the same time, there are major issues with Winnipeg getting a franchise again. The major one is we don't have a big, deep pockets owner willing to step up like Balsillie. Without that it is a non-starter and Balsillie could care less about Winnipeg.
Winnipeg also fits into that "blue collar" price range I mentioned earlier. All those rabid, never let go types are still expecting to pay $40 for the reds and get the 7-11 tickets in the upper deck for $8. That's not realistic anymore and time doesn't stand still. The pricing is probably going to be $150 at a minimum for the lowers, per seat and that won't fly well with fans here as it will come as a major shock. We support the Manitoba Moose (Canucks AHL affiliate) quite well, to the tune of 8000 or so a game, but the pricing is familiar and like it was for the old Jets games - you can take the family to a game and afford to go back two weeks later. Family of four in great seats at an NHL game? $400 for the night. Same for AHL game? $100-150. Huge difference for most. I just don't see that many fans ponying up the $4000-6000 for season tickets.
The arena we have is nice, but I think only about 15,500 in capacity. Lots of nice boxes in it, so corporate tickets would be way better than the old barn which had none. But the arena is still small.
Quebec City would face many of the same issues I'd think, plus I don't think they currently have a suitable arena and then there's the whole French language issue, which is an issue no matter what anyone says. It makes it uncomfortable for lots of the players.
It wouldn't be fair if I didn't point out I hate Bettman, as does every Winnipegger worth their salt. He's a moron and keeping the team in the US, almost completely regardless of market, instead of letting it come back to Canada is just plain stupidity. You've got an interested buyer with dollars to burn, a love of the game, who wants to involve Gretzky, name the damn arena after Wayne's dad and a good market to put it in (duly noting some impacts to surrounding teams). Why the hell would you want to put it in Kansas City or Tulsa or somewhere like that, where it will likely do as well as it has in Phoenix? No disrespect to the fans of Phoenix, but it's just not a good market for it. But obviously something is causing the owner of the current team to want out, probably the loss of millions of dollars and he just wants to stop the bleeding. Winnipeg never had the owner with super deep pockets and according to Bettman we didn't support the team, so if that's the opinion of the owner in Phoenix about his fans, off it goes to Southern Ontario.