Could be I was wrong

JOHN SHORT, SPECIAL TO THE EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

For the first time in my life, I've probably made another mistake.

Months ago, in this space, I suggested strongly - and probably wrongly - that hockey fanatics should abandon their long-held dream that the NHL franchise would some day return to Winnipeg, either with an expansion franchise or because some American operator was tired of losing millions of dollars every year.

Now, the picture is different.

I'm convinced the NHL will come calling on Manitoba money-people within the next couple of years.

The most obvious clue came when the Nashville Predators were sold. All those predictions that some southern teams would have to move are starting to come true.

But commissioner Gary Bettman dropped a hint, and also caught the attention of some important people, a few weeks earlier when he admitted under questioning that he was intrigued by Winnipeg's potential.

Granted, the new arena is too small.

Granted, the salary-cap protection that was supposed to keep small-market teams competitive is soon to disappear.

Granted, there's a legitimate question about Winnipeg's size. Starting with an annual salary cap that increases by the minute, then adding staff salaries and travel costs and farm-team subsidies and a truckload of other things, it probably requires a minimum of $100 million - or close to it - simply to operate.

Can Winnipeg handle that sort of financial pressure? I suspect we'll soon find out.

VIKING DREAMS

Good news from the folks in Camrose.

They're committed to keeping the Viking Cup alive although the deep thinkers who run the Alberta Junior Hockey League turned their back on the outstanding prospects tournament a couple of years ago. Instead, they become part of a North American Junior A tournament.

The first problem? Almost no Alberta kids played in it.

Another problem? So far, fans and scouts haven't paid attention.

When the AJHL and other western leagues pulled out, European hockey nations automatically did the same thing.

Those defections were piled on top of Hockey Canada's continued disdain for an event that attracted scouts from every NHL team and a large number of North American colleges and universities.

If not for Hockey Alberta and Augustana College, the Viking Cup might have disappeared years ago. As Augustana continues to evolve into the University of Alberta's Camrose campus, the solid support is being continued, and Hockey Alberta remains stalwart, as always.

Younger players and new teams certainly will be part of the new mix.

Good.

THIS 'N' THAT:

Just Checking:

- Now that they're just the Ducks, wouldn't it be fair to call them Mighty?

- As Corey Perry outplayed Mike Comrie in every aspect of the Stanley Cup final, was it finally clear why Kevin Lowe tried so hard to swing a deal that would have sent Comrie to Anaheim during those ugly public negotiations?


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