Doin' it for Junior

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

If all goes according to plan, the latest incarnation of the Battle of Alberta could come down to a poker game, an arm wrestle or rock/ paper/scissors.

Embarking on a journey few would have thought possible in the '80s or '90s, the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers have submitted a letter of intent to jointly host the 2009 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship.

While it's clear the rival clubs spearheading Alberta's effort have already spent a significant number of hours and money on one of the five bids expected to be tabled to Hockey Canada this spring, the big question looms: Which Alberta city would host the gold-medal game?

"I would think that would go to the gold-medal city," chuckled Flames president Ken King, who recruited v.p. business development Jim Peplinski to head the bid with Edmonton businessman Lyle Best.

"I would hope it will be much more sophisticated than (a coin toss). We know it's going to be an issue and it has been discussed but not decided. It shouldn't be hard. There are lots of issues but you can't agree to work together unless you respect those issues and have some methodology.

"We're not going to do a joint bid and have a giant disagreement. You start with synergy and a goal to succeed."

Having worked together before the lockout to launch a provincial lottery designed to benefit both clubs, the Oilers and Flames have also compared notes to improve efficiency in a number of areas.

"The relationship between (Oilers president) Pat (LaForge) and I is pretty close, notwithstanding the clause in the CBA that requires us to hate each other," laughed King. "The battle should be reserved to the ice. When we can work together towards the betterment of hockey, we should."

Cities expected to submit letters of intent by today's deadline are Montreal and Toronto, as well as 2006 application finalists Ottawa and Saskatoon.

"If it goes to the highest bidder, I think it goes to Toronto," said King of the bid rumoured to be put together by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

"However, Hockey Canada has made it clear the welfare of the players and game is forefront."

That hasn't necessarily been paramount in the past when Hockey Canada has picked host cities based on guaranteed revenues, like the $5.2 million promised by Vancouver. Starting with Saskatoon in 1991, the tourney has become bigger and more profitable every year as it virtually sold out in Red Deer ('95) Winnipeg ('99), Halifax ('03) and then Vancouver where, with the help of three smaller rinks, the event made $9 million, split traditionally by Hockey Canada (50%), the CHL (35%) and local minor hockey.

"Vancouver broke precedent and maybe we can, too -- it's never been held in two facilities like these before," said King.

"World-class events and hockey are synonymous with Alberta. This is where hockey lives and where the World Junior Hockey Championship should be."

No matter where the final game is played.


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