Cash key in junior bid

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

By this time next week, we should know if the World Junior Hockey Championship is coming back to Manitoba in 2010.

While Hockey Canada officials originally said they'd have a decision by the end of July, the people behind the Winnipeg/Brandon bid were recently told to expect a decision soon.

Good luck, though, predicting which way this thing's going to go.

Competing for the event are bids from Halifax/Moncton and Saskatoon/Regina.

Based purely on chronology, it's Saskatoon's turn, as that city hasn't hosted the World Junior since 1991. Halifax had the event in '03, Winnipeg and surrounding communities back in '99.

THINGS GET INTERESTING

Of course, chronology doesn't speak half as loudly as cold, hard cash, and this is where things get interesting.

Local organizers have been very tightlipped about the financial guarantee accompanying their bid. The closest they've come to putting a number on it is when True North Sports boss Mark Chipman said it wasn't necessarily out of the realm of Ottawa's $12.5-million guarantee for next year's event.

That would be more than double what Winnipeg reportedly bid for the '06 event, which eventually went to Vancouver -- which shows you how this tournament has exploded in value when it's held in Canada.

Problem is, the good folks of Saskatchewan are taking it just as seriously.

Reports out of that province indicate the Saskatoon/Regina bid is also in the neighbourhood of $12.5 million: $8 million underwritten by the provincial government, the rest by the cities involved.

Saskatchewan's premier and the mayors of both Saskatoon and Regina were part of that group's presentation to Hockey Canada in Toronto last month.

FINANCIAL CLOUT

The absence of politicians from the Manitoba presentation may suggest our bid is less about government backing than it is the financial clout of True North, which continues to run one of the more successful arenas in North America.

I'd say Halifax is the long-shot in this three-horse race, but beyond that, I'm not laying any money down.

I do know this: if this thing goes to the land of the banjo, it'll rank right up there with last year's Grey Cup as significant victories by Saskatchewan over Manitoba.

It's hard to calculate the value a CFL championship has, when you combine the economics with the morale boost.

But landing the World Junior these days is comparable to hosting a Grey Cup, with spinoffs in the tens of millions of dollars during a party that lasts more than a week.

Saskatchewan's bid included a "Worldfest" that would take tournament fever across the province, to different communities and ethnic groups.

It certainly sounds like they had their ducks in a row.

Next week, we'll find out if they quacked louder than ours.

Or, at least, if they carried more loonies.

THE CUP COMETH OVER: Last year it was Winkler, this summer it's St. Andrews.

For the second year in a row, the Stanley Cup is visiting our province, this time courtesy of Detroit Red Wings speedster Darren Helm.

Helm will bring the Cup home on July 14, and the place is buzzing, already.

"The kids are going nuts -- waving at me down the highway, asking when the Cup's coming," Darren Zembik, manager of the St. Andrews Arena, was saying yesterday. "We expect between 2,000 and 4,000 people."

A member of the junior-B Selkirk Fishermen a few short years ago, Helm and the Cup will be at the rink for photos and autographs from 2-5 p.m.

The gold medallist at the '06 World Junior has also donated his Red Wings jersey for a raffle, with proceeds going to the outdoor rink he skated on growing up.


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