SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- To Scott Arniel, the return of the National Hockey League to Winnipeg is a matter of when, not if.
The Manitoba Moose head coach didn't skirt the issue when asked to comment on all the recent hoopla surrounding the potential return.
And being in the rare position of spending the past four seasons in the NHL as an assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres and being a Winnipeg resident, Arniel's perspective is an interesting one.
"I've said all along that I think the NHL will be back in Winnipeg," Arniel said yesterday before the Moose took on the Syracuse Crunch. "The timeline on that, I'm really not sure about, but I really believe that it will happen.
"I've been to some of those markets down south, and I've seen some of the crowds that have been there, especially in mid-week games. For teams that have a $44-million cap and trying to pay those bills with nobody in your building, (it) can be awfully tough."
Arniel said the strength of the six current Canadian markets should ultimately aid in the process.
"The market in Canada is so strong right now, and I think it will continue to be strong," he continued.
"Look at what's happening in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and obviously Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. Those are hotbeds and I think the NHL realizes that.
"That's my opinion. I think they will be back there (Winnipeg) one day. This may be just something that's being thrown out there right now. I still think it might be a couple years away, but it's a positive sign for the city of Winnipeg and the province of Manitoba."