SUN Hockey Pool

Still a long shot

KEN WIEBE

, Last Updated: 10:37 AM ET

Like many Winnipeggers Dave Angus is intrigued by Gary Bettman's recent comments, but he's keeping a firm grasp of the situation at hand.

After hearing the latest comments from the NHL commissioner regarding the "intriguing" possibility of the league returning to Winnipeg in the future, the president of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce is cautiously optimistic.

"(Bettman's) comments are very positive and at the end of the day, a lot of it is in our hands," Angus said yesterday. "In terms of being able to build the economic capacity here in Winnipeg, not only to get a franchise but to sustain a franchise.

"Certainly, we're in much better shape than when (the value of the Canadian dollar) was down to 65 cents."

Though the recent buzz is interesting, Angus knows a return is far from a sure thing.

"There's a lot of people who say 'let's not get our hopes up,' " said Angus. "It's still a long shot, let's face it. But it's not impossible and that's what people are realizing."

Angus also understands the economic benefits the city would enjoy should the NHL return.

"Professional sports franchises have tremendous value, in terms of marketing, branding and positioning your city in a whole new light and a whole other level," said Angus, noting the success Jacksonville, Fla., had after attracting an NFL franchise and hosting a Super Bowl. "It does have a huge impact on a city, no question."

Mayor Sam Katz wasn't surprised to hear Bettman's latest comments.

"We're a great hockey city, everybody knows that. We're much better than many of the cities that they have right now," said Katz. "It's the appropriate thing for (Bettman) to say because they have some problems. It's not like there are that many other places to go. The commissioner also knows that Winnipeg is a great hockey city, there is support and there is a facility.

"You know what? Anything is possible but all of the stars have to line up."

While the new economic landscape is a positive, there are certain hurdles that remain before the possibility of the NHL's return moves beyond the long-shot stage.

PRIVATE SECTOR

"There has to be someone in the private sector that's driving this and so far, I haven't seen anybody identified," said Katz. "And the reality is that you have to have an owner who wants to come here or an owner who wants to sell a team."

Earlier this year, Manitoba Moose head coach Scott Arniel said he believes it's only a matter of time before the NHL returns to River City.

"I've said all along that I think the NHL will be back in Winnipeg," Arniel said in January. "The timeline on that, I'm really not sure about, but I really believe that it will happen. The market in Canada is so strong right now, and I think it will continue to be strong."

Manitoba Moose governor Mark Chipman, who must play an important role if the NHL were to return, declined comment yesterday.


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