Green is the colour

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

And the winner is... Saskatchewan. Again.

This is enough to give us all a complex.

Eight months after sports fans here got a football cleat to the teeth, courtesy of our neighbours to the West, the banjo pickers turn around and jab a hockey stick into our midsections.

At least after losing the Grey Cup, Manitobans could say, "We'll get you next year" -- although that's not looking too good right about now, either.

Yesterday's news that Saskatoon and Regina outbid us for the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championship might give that province bragging rights for a decade, or more.

The 2010 event was a rare opportunity for smaller cities to land the hockey tournament that Canadians have fallen head-over-skates for. With the Olympics in the same year, NHL cities didn't want it.

And what do we do? We blow it.

OK, that's a little harsh. By the sounds of it, the people behind the Manitoba bid threw everything they could think of at it.

Bankrolled largely by True North Sports, the folks who own the downtown arena and the Moose, the bid included a whopping $11.5-million guarantee, just $1 million shy of what Ottawa promised for next year's World Junior.

Who knew we could hang so comfortably with a billionaire like Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk?

"There's lots of risk in it -- lots," True North Sports boss Mark Chipman said yesterday. "We were up for it. An event like this just doesn't come around often enough that you just turn your back on it because you get a little queazy over the risk."

Problem is, Saskatoon and Regina actually one-upped us, going the extra mile, or in this case, the extra $1 million.

Seems they outdid us in several departments.

While our guys promised to build two new rinks for minor hockey in Winnipeg, Regina is adding six sheets of ice to their arena.

Toss in the fact it was Saskatoon's turn -- it last hosted the event in 1991, while we had it in '99 -- and Saskatchewan's ability to get five major junior teams involved, and things begin to tilt west.

But what might have swung it was a strategic decision by the Manitoba bid committee to let a private enterprise lead the way, as opposed to Saskatchewan's premier financial backer, the premier.

Premier Brad Wall was part of their bid presentation in Toronto last month, his open cheque-book obviously impressing the people who mattered most.

"We've never had a government bid like Saskatoon had," Hockey Canada boss Bob Nicholson said from Saskatoon yesterday. "The premier was in the bid, and two mayors were in the bid."

Winnipeg's politicians, meanwhile, weren't invited to play.

"I guess we could have approached it differently," True North boss Mark Chipman said. "But I wouldn't have been comfortable doing that."

Chipman says the province and cities of Winnipeg and Brandon stepped up, big-time, the province underwriting part of the guarantee and promising to contribute towards the two new rinks.

That may be.

But if you were Hockey Canada, what would you see as a safer bet: three government reps offering cheques of $12.5 million, or a private company offering $1 million less?

It appears our bidders underestimated Saskatchewan's desire to land this thing, and nobody's more disappointed than they are.

"It's easy to picture how exciting it would have been here at Christmas, 18 months from now," Chipman said. "The disappointment comes from knowing the best you could do wasn't good enough."

Chipman got the dreaded call late Sunday night.

"You get that sharp pain right away," he said. "It's a pain that goes right through you. It'll take a while to clear."

We've all got probably a decade or two to get over it.


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