Winnipeg had problems at that time, but it wasn't the attendance.
Both Quebec and Winnipeg couldn't survive because the NHL was expanding its expenses too much, and those teams couldn't remain competitive. But the finances of those regions have changed drastically since these teams have moved out. With a cap world and revenue sharing in the league, both these markets would have chances of succes greater than in places like Nashville, Phoenix, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Columbus and so forth. Quebec is short of a modern arena though.
Still, the problem with Hamilton is that they would be in a competitive market with Toronto and Buffalo and this could spell some troubles for BOTH Buffalo and Hamilton especially. Now since the market is not proven in Hamilton, the NHL will take the safer route of giving a team back to Winnipeg, because they KNOW there is a market waiting and ready, just like they did with Minnesota. People might complain about Bettman and the board of governors, but at least they realized the potential that city had and rectified their mistake of not helping the North Stars at the time before they moved. Winnipeg is by far the most logical choice.
Ha! This proves what I said... Balsilie was able to constrict the board's choices. A team in Canada might come way sooner than anybody would have thought.
Winnipeg had definite attendance problems. They had average crowds hovering around the 12-13000 mark in the late 80's early 90's. Their last season, it was around 11 000. Not much.
Finally, Copps in many respects no better a facility than the Mellon "Igloo" in Pittsburgh. One of the worst arenas in the league. Unless replaced as opposed to refurbished, the previous point looms. Would hamilton spend the $$$ on a rink in this economic climate?