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But new NHL talk brings reason for optimism
By KEN WIEBE


Like many Winnipeggers Dave Angus is intrigued by Gary Bettman's recent comments, but he's keeping a firm grasp of the situation at hand.

After hearing the latest comments from the NHL commissioner regarding the "intriguing" possibility of the league returning to Winnipeg in the future, the president of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce is cautiously optimistic.

"(Bettman's) comments are very positive and at the end of the day, a lot of it is in our hands," Angus said yesterday. "In terms of being able to build the economic capacity here in Winnipeg, not only to get a franchise but to sustain a franchise.

"Certainly, we're in much better shape than when (the value of the Canadian dollar) was down to 65 cents."

Though the recent buzz is interesting, Angus knows a return is far from a sure thing.

"There's a lot of people who say 'let's not get our hopes up,' " said Angus. "It's still a long shot, let's face it. But it's not impossible and that's what people are realizing."

Angus also understands the economic benefits the city would enjoy should the NHL return.

"Professional sports franchises have tremendous value, in terms of marketing, branding and positioning your city in a whole new light and a whole other level," said Angus, noting the success Jacksonville, Fla., had after attracting an NFL franchise and hosting a Super Bowl. "It does have a huge impact on a city, no question."

Mayor Sam Katz wasn't surprised to hear Bettman's latest comments.

"We're a great hockey city, everybody knows that. We're much better than many of the cities that they have right now," said Katz. "It's the appropriate thing for (Bettman) to say because they have some problems. It's not like there are that many other places to go. The commissioner also knows that Winnipeg is a great hockey city, there is support and there is a facility.

"You know what? Anything is possible but all of the stars have to line up."

While the new economic landscape is a positive, there are certain hurdles that remain before the possibility of the NHL's return moves beyond the long-shot stage.

PRIVATE SECTOR

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