Hat's in the ring

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

We're going for it.

A plan to bring the World Junior Hockey Championship back to Manitoba took a step forward yesterday when a lineup of heavy hitters agreed to go on the offensive and submit a bid that will include a multi-million dollar profit guarantee.

Your front line: Hockey Manitoba, True North Sports and Destination Winnipeg.

Backed by the city and province, the group yesterday agreed to submit a letter of intent to bid for the 2010 and/or 2012 world juniors, both of which will be held in Canada.

The bid includes a deposit of $10,000 -- but will have to be backed by a guarantee several hundred times that in order to get Hockey Canada's attention.

"This is one of the most sought after events in Canadian sports," True North spokesman Scott Brown said. "People have talked about how expensive it is in past years. I don't know that it'll be that expensive. But it is quite a guarantee. 1999 was $1 million. It's far north of that."

How far north, nobody will dare say.

With as many as nine other cities expected to submit bids by Friday's deadline, the competition will be fierce, and nobody wants to show their cards.

Winnipeg last submitted a bid for the 2006 tournament, which landed in Vancouver thanks in part to a guarantee of $5.2 million. The actual profit that year was close to $9 million.

Ottawa, site of next year's World Junior, upped the ante again, guaranteeing $12.5 million on the wallet of Senators owner Eugene Melnyk.

Winnipeg doesn't have an NHL owner or NHL-sized arena to support that kind of guarantee. But organizers say they're not intimidated by the big dollar signs.

"We would not be pursuing this if we weren't confident that we could compete with the hopes of success down the line," Brown said.

What are our chances?

That's hard to say.

Our best shot is probably the 2010 tournament, mainly because it should draw less competition.

That's the year of the Vancouver Winter Games, which immediately takes that city out of the running, and possibly several others.

Because of the Olympic break, the NHL schedule will already have to be compressed, making it difficult for an NHL team to hand over its arena for the two-week world junior.

Calgary and Edmonton, or other cities close to each other, could possibly share the event, but that presents some logistical challenges.

So this is one time when not having an NHL franchise (hello, Saskatoon and Hamilton) is an advantage.

Manitoba's other advantage is history.

Thanks to the successful '99 world junior, the sold out exhibition games here in '04 and the record-breaking World Women's Championship -- not to mention an offer to take this year's world men's championship from Halifax and Quebec City when it was teetering under disorganization -- Winnipeg is in Hockey Canada's good books.

That should get us into the finals.

Our disadvantage is the lack of a secondary facility.

One arena isn't enough to host 30-plus games, and the closest decent-sized rink after that is in Brandon, just within Hockey Canada's maximum allowable travel time of two hours. Another factor working against us: cities like Calgary, Edmonton, St. John's and Regina have never hosted. We aren't a major junior hotbed, either.

So get your hopes up at your own risk.

"It's difficult to get your hopes up when you don't necessarily know what or who you're competing with, yet," Brown said. "It's very early. And there's a lot of different steps to go through, in terms of getting to that final bid.

"But we're confident in how the city has responded to international hockey in the past."

That's one thing we can bank on.

But this could come down to money.

Let the bidding begin.


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