Thumbs up on 'Peg's new digs

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

It won't be the deciding factor in whether the NHL ever returns to Winnipeg, but the MTS Centre got a big thumbs up from players and coaches yesterday.

For the record, a sellout crowd of 15,015 filled the building to witness the NHL pre-season contest between the Phoenix Coyotes and Edmonton Oilers, a game the Oilers won 5-0.

And although the Winnipeg Arena was a classic building and loved by many who skated on its ice, the new downtown arena had players talking.

"It's nice. It looks like it could hold an NHL team," said Coyotes defenceman Ed Jovanovski.

Coyotes centre Jeremy Roenick was asked if he was surprised the pre-season game was a sellout?

"Absolutely not. It doesn't surprise me at all. If you told me it wasn't sold out, I'd be extremely surprised," said Roenick. "We're in Winnipeg, we're in Canada. It's hockey heaven up here and that's why I'm here. I'm not playing but I love to be surrounded by the atmosphere and the people."

Not to mention, the building.

"It's beautiful," said Roenick. "For a minor league team, these guys have got it made pretty good. For a city that supports a team and loves hockey as much as this city does, it's nice to see they have a nice place to watch a game. It's really pretty.

IMPRESSED

"It was a shame (the Jets) had to leave. Maybe they will come back in the future." "It's a great building," added Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "I don't think there's a better American League building. I know there's not a better American League building."

Oilers captain Jason Smith was also impressed.

"It's a great rink," said Smith. "You can tell a lot of thought was put into it. This must be a good place to play."

Coyotes captain Shane Doan noticed the not-so-subtle differences between the Winnipeg Arena and the MTS Centre.

"It's incredible," said Doan, the last active link between the Jets and Coyotes. "This room is phenomenal. It's as good as the NHL dressing rooms. The Moose are lucky. The organization has done a great job. It's a great feel to the whole building. And it's awful nice to be right downtown. A little different than the old one."

The arena also got the seal of approval from The Great One.

"It's very similar to our building in Phoenix, to be honest," said Coyotes head coach Wayne Gretzky. "It's got a lot of the same features as our new facility has. The atmosphere in the building is very similar to that in Phoenix."


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