SUN Hockey Pool

Living the Jet-set life

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

The greatest player in Winnipeg Jets NHL history is as optimistic as everyone in the Manitoba capital these days.

Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk, who now calls Orangeville, Ont., home, knows chances are slim an NHL team will return to Winnipeg.

But, under the new salary cap era, anything's possible.

"They certainly have a great facility now," said Hawerchuk of the MTS Centre, a 15,100-seat arena in downtown Winnipeg that has been open for a little more than a year. "That's going to help their cause."

Hawerchuk, who was in Calgary last night as part of the touring Oldtimers Hockey Challenge Classic at the Saddledome, says it may take a couple of years to see exactly how the salary-cap system pans out but there is definitely some hope.

"I think it's a real possibility," said Hawerchuk, who still sits in the NHL's top 30 in goals (518, 29th), assists (891, 18th) and points (1,409, 16th), despite playing fewer than 1,200 games.

"You look at the past, it was hard for $25 and $30 million to compete with $90 million. Now, $25 or $30 million can compete with $40 or $45 million or whatever the number is. It's not such a big difference.

"Within the next couple of seasons, you'll see how it all shakes out. If it looks feasible, I think there's a real chance that one of these teams struggling, say in a non-hockey market in the U.S., may decide to make that move."

The salary cap's short-term impact is already being felt with a quiet prelude to Thursday's 1 p.m. NHL trade deadline.

"I think everybody's wondering if anything's going to happen this year," Hawerchuk said.

"With the cap, it's hard. You think about moving a $5-million-dollar guy, whoever wants him, they've got to make room somehow.

"With this cap, teams just can't go out there and blow their brains out for the last couple of months like they used to. They've got to be a little fiscally responsible. That could slow down the movement, for sure."

Hawerchuk and Legendary Hockey Heroes teammates such as Bryan Trottier, Cliff Ronning, Jimmy Mann and Dave (Tiger) Williams would love to catch all the action -- or lack thereof -- on the tube Thursday but they'll be on their way from Fort St. John, B.C., to Lloydminster, Sask., for another charity game.

"We'll be travelling. We're playing all week," said Hawerchuk. "We're on tour but we'll be looking at it."

Hawerchuk says the ultimate lack of true 'rental' players at this year's deadline is "probably a good thing."

"All organizations have to be on their toes, right from the summer going into the training camp, so that they're happy with a roster that they won't have to make too many moves."

While Hawerchuk can't experience the 'new' NHL for himself, he now has a little knowledge of what it's like to play without the centre redline -- an idea he panned years before the league took away the two-line pass.

He has softened his stance a bit now.

"Even playing Oldtimers without a redline, it seems like it's opened it up a little bit," he said. "You'll see the odd long pass -- it hasn't changed it drastically in that sense but I think it's probably had more effect than most of us thought."


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