Reality check please

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:19 AM ET

It was only a matter of time.

Sometime, somewhere, some knuckle-headed politician in this province was going to try to score some political points in the bring-back-the-Jets debate.

Never mind that this issue is all about NHL economics, not politics.

Politicians and common sense rarely share the same room. During an election campaign, they're area codes apart.

COMMUNISM

So there was Tory leader Hugh McFadyen yesterday, standing at ice level in our downtown arena, flanked by former Jets centre Thomas Steen -- both wearing Jets jerseys -- and promising to do what he can to bring the NHL back to Winnipeg if he's elected premier.

Sounds great on the surface, you say?

So does communism.

Dig a little deeper, though, and this plan makes about as much sense as Mike Smith's draft strategy.

For starters, there are a few serious hockey issues the would-be premier neglected to address, not the least of which is the continuing increase in the salary cap.

Debuting at $39 million US in 2005-06, the first year after the lockout, the cap increased to $44 million US this past season. Initial reports suggest it could swell again next season.

That's lousy news for a city that would have the NHL's smallest arena at just over 15,000, and therefore one of the league's smallest revenue streams.

Anybody out there prepared to pay good money to watch a bad team that can't afford to keep its stars? A salary cap on its own doesn't mean a lick if it's too high.

Secondly, I don't see an NHL team for sale out there. And the last one, the Pittsburgh Penguins, was on the verge of fetching a cool $175 million before the Pens owners wrangled a new arena deal that will see them stay put.

That's $175 million US -- just a little out of reach of the Winnipeg business elite, I'd guess.

Hughie the Huckster says he'd "build a partnership" with this city's money bags, but none were on hand for yesterday's photo-op.

If he'd come flanked by, say, an Asper on his right and a Richardson on his left, we might have a new version of the Hot Line. Instead, we've got a would-be centre man looking for wingers that aren't there.

Brings back memories of those first two Jets seasons, doesn't it?

Mike Eagles showed better puck sense than this guy.

The one man who could quarterback this power play, True North Sports boss Mark Chipman, wasn't in on the plan, either. That's because there isn't one.

BEER-SWILLERS

It's a bunch of hot air from a politician who thinks sports fans are an easy mark.

There may be a few beer-swillers out there who'll buy it, but I'll bet there are far more who see this for what it is: a feeble attempt at a slap shot that doesn't even hit the end boards.

Hughie's plan includes two ideas borrowed from Alberta: a provincial lottery and a tax on visiting NHL players.

As McFadyen said in his press release, "If you want to spark imaginations, you've got to be imaginative." Or else, steal ideas from someone else.

If he'd done some checking, McFadyen would have noticed both his "imaginative ideas" have been scrapped by the Alberta government.

Bottom line, sports fans: don't let a politician get your hopes up.

A lot of things have to happen if we want the NHL back in town, none of which have much to do with who's premier of this province.

We need a couple of teams to fold or relocate, for starters. Kansas City will be first in line -- they're obviously willing to pay more than it's worth to woo a team to the brand-spanking new Sprint Center.

By the second or third team, the price should come down and some would-be owners in Winnipeg might try to put a deal together.

It's all about deep pockets. Not shallow politicians.


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