Friday, January 26, 2007

Outbreak of NHL fever hits Winnipeg

They’ve taken the casual offhand remarks of Gary Bettman and Ron McLean and let their imaginations run wild in the Peg. With Bettman declaring that under the current CBA hockey very well may work again in Winnipeg, the locals are all but ready to sign up for the season ticket packages.

Hockey fans in Winnipeg have set up websites to bring hockey back, jetsowners, bring back the jets and such all serve to show the passion that Winnipeg has for pro hockey. Though it must seem like they are hitting their heads against a wall, as these bring back the jets campaigns have been going on since the day the team left for the Arizona desert.

Mark Chipman, the current owner of the AHL's Manitoba Moose, issued a press release on the prospects of NHL hockey returning to the city, stating that he and his Moose Management team are regularly in touch with the NHL over potential opportunities for the Manitoba city.

Others are looking to Newspaper and Broadcasting mogul David Asper to kick some tires and make a few cold calls on behalf of his hometown. Asper who at the moment is more interested in securing the Blue Bombers and building a football stadium, did say on Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown two days ago, that he was heading down to Dallas for the all star game and who knew what could happen from that gathering.

Suddenly for many Winnipeggers it seems as though the stars have finally aligned again, after the departure of their beloved Jets oh so many years ago.

An article in the Winnipeg Sun by Ken Wiebe seems to give an indication as to the spell for the NHL that Winnipeg is under and despite their heartbreak of last century, just how desperately they want back into the club.

Great Week of Hockey News

January 26,2007
Winnipeg Sun

Well, at least the silence has finally been broken.

Sort of.

Manitoba Moose governor Mark Chipman made his first public comments on the prospects of the NHLs potential return to Winnipeg yesterday, albeit in the form of a statement in a press release.

Chipman was cautiously optimistic regarding comments by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman that Winnipeg could be a viable market under the new economic framework.

Chipman also re-iterated True North has kept in contact with the NHL to keep the door open should an opportunity to pursue a franchise arise.

What we'd really like to know is if Chipman and/or media mogul David Asper were speaking with Florida Panthers owner Alan Cohen or Nashville Predators owner Craig Leopold about relocation during this recent visit to the NHL All-Star game in Dallas.

Answers to those questions aren't expected to be offered anytime soon, either in the form of a press release or live interview.

But the fact Bettman has changed his tune regarding Winnipeg is nothing short of shocking.
It's also refreshing.

The possibility of expansion has surfaced during the past several days and while it still offers a light at the end of the tunnel, relocation seems to be the preferred method of bringing a team back to Winnipeg.

Starting from scratch would require immense patience from a fan base that has been crushed by the departure of its team.

Look no further than the Minnesota Wild, whose loyal fan base has filled the Xcel Energy Center despite limited success in the wins and losses column.

While there's no guarantee a team that relocates would be a Stanley Cup contender, at least the structure would be in place.

Nonetheless, it's been an eventful week when it comes to hockey in Winnipeg.

First, we find out Hockey Canada is considering moving the 2008 IIHF World Men's Hockey Championship from Quebec City to our fair city.

We are encouraged by this possibility, though we'd be remiss to also say that Hockey Canada dropped the ball by not giving it to Winnipeg in the first place.

With all due respect to Halifax, which is a great sports town, Winnipeg was the natural choice, since the city has done nothing but fly the Canadian flag since hosting the World Junior Hockey Championship in 1999.

Visions of Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin gracing the ice in May of 2008 in the 100th anniversary of the men's world championship should make the heart rate of most hockey fans soar.

But regardless of whether that becomes a reality, there will be NHL hockey at the MTS Centre this September.

Thanks to the smashing success of the sold out tilt between the Phoenix Coyotes and Edmonton Oilers last September, the former Winnipeg Jets franchise is coming home again.

This time the opponent will be the Toronto Maple Leafs, whose legion of Stanley Cup starved fans includes many in the Keystone Province.

We've got nothing against having another NHL pre-season game here, but it does seem curious that one of the combatants isn't the Vancouver Canucks, who happen to serve as the parent club of the Manitoba Moose.

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