Big bucks for jr. pucks

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

The bid is in.

A group of Manitobans trying to land the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championship did their best to wow the people at Hockey Canada yesterday.

Their strong suit was undoubtedly the next-to-new downtown arena.

But they're hoping a secret ace-in-the-hole gives them the edge over Halifax and Saskatoon, the only other players in this multi-million dollar poker game.

"Ours is somewhat unique," Mark Chipman of True North Sports and the Manitoba Moose said from Toronto. "We've got our bases covered. And we threw some other interesting, somewhat novel ideas at it. Hopefully, collectively that carries enough weight."

Just what those "interesting, novel" concepts are, Chipman wouldn't say.

Saskatoon's reps are making their bid today, and nobody wants to tip off the competition. So details remain as closely guarded as hands at the $1,000-table in Vegas.

But Chipman hinted the Winnipeg/Brandon financial guarantee might be bigger than we thought.

The world juniors have become a cash cow in this country, a tournament on steroids, if you will, forcing bidders to muscle up, financially, before they step up to the plate.

Winnipeg landed the '99 tournament with a then-unprecedented guarantee of $1 million. That number swelled to $3 million for Halifax in '03, then $5.2 million from Vancouver in '06, an event Winnipeg bid more than $4 million for.

The real kicker came when Ottawa guaranteed a mind-boggling $12.5 million for next year's event. Financial weaklings are no longer welcome at the table.

The 2010 event is a slightly different animal, in that no NHL cities are bidding because the Winter Olympics are already going to put a crimp in the NHL schedule. Nobody wants to close their building for another two-week junior tournament.

So we assumed Winnipeg wouldn't be anywhere near Ottawa's territory in this process.

Not so fast, says Chipman.

"It wouldn't be fair to assume the magnitude of our overall package is not comparable to Ottawa's," he said. "But I'm kind of handcuffed to tell you why."

This much we do know about the local proposal: Brandon would get Team Canada's training camp, two Team Canada exhibition games and 10 tournament games.

All of Team Canada's tournament games would be in Winnipeg, part of a 21-game package, including the medal round, at the downtown arena.

The direct involvement of Chipman, along with Brandon Wheat Kings boss Kelly McCrimmon, is already an improvement from our '06 bid. Who knows better how to sell hockey in their markets?

"It's people that have got their neck in the noose," Peter Woods, head of Hockey Manitoba and also part of the bid committee, said. "They've run events and know what they can get out of the market."

Woods says the immediate feedback at the table yesterday was positive.

"There were a lot of smiles, a lot of nodding their heads," he said. "It came across very strong."

Of course, that and $4 will get you some fancy-shmancy latte at Starbucks.

The advantage for Halifax, partnering with Moncton, might also be its disadvantage: it's hosted many recent international events, including this year's world men's hockey championship.

Saskatoon has waited even longer than we have for another crack at the juniors, last hosting in '91.

But nobody has a primary rink like ours.

The tall foreheads at Hockey Canada will spend the next several weeks poring over the bids -- Winnipeg's was an inch thick -- with a decision expected in July.

This is no slam dunk, but it sounds like we may be the team to beat.

"They'll be tough to knock off," Halifax rep Fred MacGillivray said.

Here's hoping.


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