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Winnipeg must decide at some point if it really wants NHL to return
By TED WYMAN


It's funny how, for the better part of a decade, Winnipeggers blamed Gary Bettman for everything from the departure of the Jets to the Kennedy assassination, yet now that the NHL commissioner has completely changed his tune regarding the city, few people are jumping for joy.

In fact, it almost seems like people are running for the hills.

It's too expensive to buy a team. We can't afford tickets. The arena's too small. There's not enough corporate money in this town.

Was this the ultimate case of being careful what you wish for?

Average Joes in this city have been dreaming for years of the NHL returning, even though they knew the cost of tickets was escalating through the roof.

There's no question it will cost a small fortune to take a family to one game, let alone a whole season's worth.

When it seemed like little more than a pipe dream, it really didn't matter. Dreams don't take money out of the bank.

Now that there is some real hope on the horizon -- Bettman has essentially said he wants to return to Winnipeg -- people are protecting their wallets like they are walking past a potential mugger in a dark alley.

Several years ago, we wrote that if many pieces of a big economic puzzle came together, Winnipeg could one day return to the NHL. A lot of those pieces are now in place: A new downtown arena which was built to bring in revenue; an economically reformed NHL complete with salary cap; a much stronger Canadian dollar; teams in the southern U.S. going up for sale; and even an unlikely willing partner in the NHL commissioner.

At some point here, people are going to have to put up or shut up.

Are there any money men in this city who really want to get involved in such a venture? Would Mark Chipman be willing to open his doors and start a partnership with a wealthy owner who has a team on the move? If a rich owner like Jim Balsillie wanted to bring his team to the MTS Centre, would people entice him by snapping up tickets in a test run?

In short, do we want to be a big-league city?

At some point, we have to decide.

CRAPS COLISEUM: Balsillie has entered into a lease agreement with the city of Hamilton, presumably so he has the option of moving his NHL team into Copps Coliseum. The folks in Hamilton shouldn't get too excited though. Nobody is going to stay in that garbage dump for long. Clearly though, this guy wants a team in Southern Ontario and has the money to make it happen ... Little Man Gary obviously doesn't want another team in Southern Ontario, which might explain his sudden love for the 'Peg. Will we be just a pawn in this high-stakes game? Unfortunately, it looks that way ... Congrats to coach Derek Laxdal of Gimli, who guided the Idaho Steelheads to the ECHL championship this season. The team also included Winnipeggers Blake Forsyth and Kory Scoran and Travis Wight of Fannystelle, Man.

MR. JUDD WINS:

FULL STORY
 
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