'Peg NHL dream going nowhere

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

NHL revenue is at an all-time high, a team from Carolina is two wins from winning the Stanley Cup and they're moving closer to building a new arena in Pittsburgh.

In a nutshell, it's been a lousy week for the bring-back-the-Jets crowd.

It began Monday, when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told the masses the health of the league has far surpassed what anybody expected following the year-long lockout.

Yes, we know Bettman can spin like a silkworm on steroids. Five teams could be folding, and he'd make it sound positive.

But it's hard to argue with the revenue claim, simply because of the direction the salary cap is going.

The cap, remember, is directly tied to revenue. And the cap is taking a better than 10% jump -- from $39 million to $43 or $44 million -- next season.

Clearly, the NHL isn't staggering from the lockout. Armageddon came and went, and no franchises went to hell.

Attendance, we remind you, actually increased in most non-traditional markets (Carolina was up 27%).

Debate the validity of the numbers all you want. We don't pretend they're always accurate, either.

But, again, you can't argue with the bottom line.

A rising salary cap is the last thing anybody who wants the NHL back in Winnipeg wanted to see.

We needed it to be falling, with a team or two about to do likewise.

Which brings us to the Penguins, the one team that is for sale.

Mario Lemieux and the rest of the Pens owners can begin shopping the team next month. But word out of Pittsburgh is the city and state of Pennsylvania are ready to secure the land needed for a new arena that would keep the team right where it is.

And anybody who thought Carolina might be the next team to move, well, the Hurricanes are about to bolster their presence in Raleigh by winning a Stanley Cup.

Yes, we think the Oilers are done.

And that's about the only thing that might have an old Jets fan smiling these days.

BIG WINNER: It's not often a hockey player gets a chance to lose two Game 7s in one playoff season.

But that's what happened to Winkler's Dustin Penner, who was sent down to the AHL's Portland Pirates for Game 7 against the Hershey Bears right after his Anaheim Mighty Ducks lost Game 7 to Edmonton.

"Twice a loser," Penner, back in Anaheim, was saying yesterday.

Actually, the big 23-year-old was anything but this season, making the jump to the NHL, and his mark in the playoffs (nine points in 13 games), after spending most of the year in Portland.

"I couldn't have asked for a better year," Penner said.

Now comes the hard part: staying up top.

Penner says he got some useful words of advice from Ducks veteran Scott Niedermayer, who called Penner and two other rookies aside for a chat.

"He said the hardest thing he had to learn was you have to work hard each summer after the previous season to stay here," Penner said. "I was really surprised when he did that. It means he generally cares about the team, and the players breaking into this league."

Penner plans to take the advice to heart, working with the same personal trainer who helped him pack 245 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," he said.


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