SUN Hockey Pool

Fans rally to bring NHL back to 'Peg

CHRIS KITCHING -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 1:04 PM ET

The turnout was nothing like the rallies of nearly a decade ago, but that didn't stop a small core of hockey fans yearning for the return of an NHL franchise.

Dressed in Winnipeg Jets jerseys and T-shirts, the dozen supporters at Portage and Main were nearly outnumbered by the media as they coaxed passing drivers to honk their horns.

"Dancing" Gabe Langlois and other puckheads balanced on benches and concrete planters, chanted and cheered for more than an hour even though a Richardson Building security guard asked them to leave.

"I'm here to make sure everybody in the city of Winnipeg knows the fan support is here," said Ian Moffatt, 18, who donned his Jets tuque despite the 30 C heat.

The rally was organized by diehard Jets fan Darren Ford, whose website -- jetsowner.com -- has kept the hope for a resurrected NHL franchise alive for two years.

NOT DISAPPOINTED BY TURNOUT

Ford said he wasn't expecting more than two-dozen fans to turn up for the rally. He said the small turnout isn't an indication there is little support in Winnipeg for a big-league team.

The city's chances have improved with a new arena and the end of an NHL lockout that spawned a new collective bargaining agreement that includes a hard salary cap and revenue sharing, he said.

"We're one step away. All we need now is a buyer and a seller," Ford said. "The money is here, it's just a matter of a southern team folding and moving north."

Winnipeg's participation in the NHL would come full circle if that happens. The Jets left in 1996 for sunny Phoenix, Ariz.

People who watched the rally from a distance said the return of the sport's best players would breathe new life into the city.

"They never should have left in the first place," John De Decker said. "If ticket prices are affordable we could afford to have a team."


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