Positive news for 'Peg hockey fans

TED WYMAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

Local reaction to the shocking news that Gary Bettman not only has a soft spot for Winnipeg as a hockey market but sees it as a potential destination for franchise relocation has been both surprising and disconcerting.

Here's a guy most people blamed for the departure of the Winnipeg Jets and the Americanization of our beloved game who now says our fair city should be first in line to provide a home for the Phoenix Coyotes, and the general reaction is one of fear and extreme pessimism.

Judging from hundreds of online comments, on-the-street interviews and water cooler conversations, a great number of Winnipeggers suddenly seem terrified by the notion that NHL hockey might one day return.

Is this a case of being careful what you wish for? Sure seems that way when people's immediate reaction to this news is to suggest hockey games are too expensive and Winnipeg won't be able to support a team anyway.

This when they could be rejoicing about the fact that somebody with power and influence in the game of hockey still considers this to be a major league city.

This is an extremely positive development for a city that needs a morale boost.

We're not saying people should get their hopes up. We don't trust Bettman as far as he could skate on the Assiniboine River Trail during a January snowstorm. He has been the subject of much criticism in this space over the years.

We don't believe a move to Winnipeg is imminent either because nobody (hello Mark Chipman) seems to be stepping forward with any kind of offer to buy the Coyotes and the NHL still, for some reason, prefers the idea of keeping the team in the desert.

But it's clear there have been some high-level discussions about Winnipeg, that the NHL sees the MTS Centre as a viable facility and that the league believes there is a potential owner (an anti-Balsillie who is biding his time and doing everything the NHL asks of him) for a team in this market.

That's a big step, especially when you consider the Coyotes are not the only American team buckling under immense financial pressure.

It's OK to be skeptical. It's always seemed like a long shot that the NHL would come back.

But it's also OK to dream a little. And it's OK to put up a fight to keep that dream alive.

It's OK to think maybe, just maybe Jim Balsillie is hurting Winnipeg's chances both by trying to get his hands on the very team potentially earmarked for this city and by bidding a ridiculous amount ($212 million for a money-bleeding franchise) to make it happen.

Now is not the time to wring our hands and fret about the cost of tickets or the size of the MTS Centre or the cramped seats.

If Mark Chipman and Gary Bettman don't think they can sell enough tickets here, it simply won't happen. So let's let them worry about that.

Now is the time to celebrate the fact that something you didn't believe was possible just might be.


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