Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Can Winnipeg find comfort from Keenan?

It's a complicated thing for Winnipeg hockey fans, you can cheer on the exploits of the jersey's that replaced the ones that used to skate in your town, or you can start up the Go Flames Go chant, something never heard before in a Winnipeg arena.

It's almost hockey night in Winnipeg, as the NHL taunts Manitobans with a smell of the game they once held as their own.

The annual exhibition trek through the Canadian west is underway with the Flames and the Coyotes meeting up on Wednesday night at the MTS Centre.

It will be a night which offers up any number of conflicting emotions for the former Jets fans, the Coyotes still have an attachment to Winnipeg from the roots of the franchise, while the Flames were always one of the top rivals and enemies from those heated days of Hawerchuck, Barnes and Carlyle et al.
A Flames/Jets game was one part hockey game and one part street fight at times, as emotions frequently would boil over after seemingly minor incidents. Calgary forever claimed their fame as enemy number one when a Jamie Macoun cross check sent Dale Hawerchuk to the sidelines for the remainder of the 84/85 playoffs.

So to try and figure out where Winnipeg should put its attachment on this game is the thing for Lucy Van Pelt or at least Doctor Phil.

As is always the case whenever the NHL brings their pre season workouts to Winnipeg, talk quickly moves towards the prospect of Winnipeg one day getting a team of their own again, a constant wish since the day that the Jets last held their sticks in the air on the way off the then Winnipeg Arena ice and rambled off to the Arizona desert.
While they work on their tans under the Arizona sun, they have made occassional returns to the land of ice and windchill factors, having returned three times since their move in 1996, bringing training camp skateathons back to the prairies for occasional visits.

Since that infamous day of departure, the topic of Winnipeg as returning to the fold comes up and seemingly gets pushed back to the bottom of Gary Bettman's inbox every time. The city pops up every time an NHL franchise (normally in a southern climate zone) takes on a bit of water, but the NHL pull out the pumps, prop up the troubled team and then cobbles together some kind of thank you for Winnipeg, saluting their interest but advising that there won't be any relocations at this time.

Many in Winnipeg however feel they're ready once again, but so far there's not many outside of the province jumping to their side to try and bring them back. For what it's worth for Winnipeg fans however, one of the two head coaches in Wednesday's game is on your side.

While Wayne Gretzky recently ruminated about expansion and gave his nod towards Hamilton, suggesting that Western Canada probably can't support anymore, Iron Mike is of a different opinion.

While he admitted he was not knowledgeable enough about financial matters to offer an opinion on the financial capabilities of Winnipeg, Keenan did explain that he was more than aware of the emotional attachment that the province has for the game and he would "love to see a team in Winnipeg".

Now as hard as this is going to be for Winnipeg fans, the chant for Wednesday night is Go Flames Go....

You have to dance with the one who wants you!

No comments: