Nasty hangover in Winnipeg

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:07 PM ET

Need a little comfort after another courtship gone wrong, Winnipeg?

How about this: Ice Edge says they still respect us this morning.

Ice Edge is one of two groups vying to buy the Phoenix Coyotes, an effort that received new life when Glendale city council approved its $25-million save-the-Coyotes plan in Arizona, late Tuesday night.

The plan would see the city cover the team’s losses next season, should the NHL continue to own the franchise it rescued out of bankruptcy.

Of course, that puts a serious crimp in plans to move the team back to the ’Peg, plans that were all but signed, sealed and delivered, if you read some media reports the last few weeks.

In this space, we’ve tried over the years to be the voice of reason on the NHL issue, not wanting to lead you, our loyal reader, down a garden path that leads straight back to the desert.

But, I’ll admit, even I started to think the previously unthinkable.

When respectable outlets like ESPN report the NHL has an agreement in principle with Winnipeg’s True North Sports to move the team should plans to keep them in Glendale fall through, you take notice.

When further reports describe Chicago sports mogul Jerry Reinsdorf’s deal as dead one week, Ice Edge pulling out the next, well, what’s left to believe, except that the dream is on the verge of reality?

Then, bam — we learn Tuesday that Ice Edge and Reinsdorf are still very much in the game, and now have plenty of time to reach a deal with the NHL and Glendale, thanks to the city’s promise to cover losses for a year.

To make matters worse, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman tells a national TV audience the “hysteria” out of Winnipeg has been misguided, even questioning the readiness of our owner (True North) and its arena.

Didn’t exactly feel like an “agreement in principle” kind of moment, did it?

To be fair, the NHL refuted reports about the alleged agreement soon after they appeared — although it didn’t stop the hysteria.

“We repeatedly denied that assertion over many months,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Sun in an e-mail Wednesday. “At some point in the process, the amount of misinformation became unmanageable.”

There was the report that said when the Coyotes come here, the Manitoba Moose would be moved to Thunder Bay, home of some of the Ice Edge gang.

Then there were the reports of Reinsdorf’s demise.

Seems to me the spark that really ignited the firestorm, though, was the phony agreement in principle.

I believe Daly when he says it doesn’t exist.

So where did that report originate?

Well, who’d have the most to gain by inventing, then leaking, something like that?

The groups negotiating with Glendale, of course. What better way to put the pressure on city councillors afraid of losing their arena tenant?

I presented my theory to Ice Edge spokesman Daryl Jones, a media-savvy guy who, if you don’t see him quoted somewhere, you can find him sharing his thoughts on his Twitter feed, even during the delicate negotiations with Glendale this past week.

“To suggest that either Ice Edge or the Reinsdorf group perpetuated rumours to push the councillors to vote in the affirmative is beyond ridiculous, and certainly not how we conduct business,” Jones said in an e-mail. “Ice Edge has nothing but the utmost respect for True North Entertainment, the hockey fans of Winnipeg, and strongly endorses the expansion of the NHL within Canada.

“Winnipeg should be at the very top of that list.”

Gee, thanks.

Feel better, everyone?


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