Size could keep 'Peg out of NHL

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 1:49 PM ET

Let it first be said that on the very day the MTS Centre opened its doors we opined it might not be big enough to attract an NHL team.

Let it now be said that the capacity of Winnipeg's one-year-old downtown arena is already being pointed to by some as a major detractor, just days after we heard the news that an NHL team could actually be available.

Allan Muir, an online columnist with Sports Illustrated, pegged our fair city as a 45-1 long shot to land the Pittsburgh Penguins, should they move after the 2006-07 season.

Winnipeg is ranked fifth out of the cities said to be in the chase, well behind Kansas City (5-1), Houston (8-1) Milwaukee (25-1) and Oklahoma City (30-1). The writer actually installs Pittsburgh as a 2-1 favourite to keep the team, but for interest sake, let's say that's not going to happen.

The one thing all of the aforementioned contenders have in common is a larger arena than Winnipeg.

Here's the big question: Does size matter?

In this case, we think not.

The MTS Centre, with its 15,000 seats and 46 luxury boxes, was built by Manitoba Moose owner Mark Chipman and his partners as a revenue-generator. It is designed to make money.

It's doing that already with an AHL team and a steady stream of concerts.

Now, how would it do with a major league team, featuring budding superstar Sidney Crosby no less, calling it home?

We wouldn't dare suggest that, even with that headline attraction on the bill 50-odd times a season, the building would sell out every night. Based on past history and the likely $75 average ticket, it's just not going to happen.

But in the age of the salary cap, in an up-to-date building that bleeds revenue instead of red ink, an NHL team could definitely make a go of it.

And there has to be something said for Winnipeg being a traditional hockey market. Does the NHL really want another team in a market where hockey is a foreign word? Certainly that would apply in places like Houston, Kansas City and Oklahoma City.

So, we'll reiterate our earlier opinion: the MTS Centre might not be big enough to attract an NHL team.

But if you look closely, it should be good enough to house one.

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CENTRE OF ATTENTION: According to accounts about the infamous Minnesota Vikings sex-party cruise, quarterback Daunte Culpepper (who is charged with indecent, lewd and disorderly conduct) received a naked lap dance on the boat and fondled the woman's buttocks. In Culpepper's defence, he does that to the snapper all the time and nobody ever complains ... There's a rumour that Ron Artest could be traded to the Toronto Raptors, but we doubt it. There's no way he could get all that baggage through customs.


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