Votes of confidence for expansion to 'Peg

KEN WIEBE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

The topic was destined to come up.

In a week where possible future expansion was discussed briefly at the NHL board of governors meetings in Chicago, the subject of Winnipeg's potential return to the loop provided the usual responses.

"If there's an opportunity and an opening, I'm sure the NHL would definitely look at it," said Phoenix Coyotes head coach Wayne Gretzky. "We realize and know this is a good hockey area, a great hockey city and a good sports town. It's a beautiful facility here, a great complex."

"There's always going to be that hope for hockey in Canada," added Coyotes captain Shane Doan. "It's our sport and what we're so proud of. It's something we've got to make sure is always there.

"There's always hope, I guess."

Former Manitoba Moose goalie Alex Auld, who spent parts of four seasons in Winnipeg (including the lockout season of 2004-05) was also in favour of the NHL's return to River City.

"Everybody knows the fans here are very passionate," said Auld. "Some day maybe. Now they're talking expansion. If the timing was right, I think it could work. But a lot of things have to go into it."

Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin even chimed in with his two cents.

"I haven't been to Winnipeg in a long time and it's a great hockey town," said Sundin. "Who knows? Maybe it's a city that might have NHL hockey again in the future."

Maple Leafs forward Alex Steen took time to remember what it was like when the Winnipeg Jets departed to Arizona.

"The whole city was pretty heartbroken. It was a tough time," said Steen. "There was an emptiness in Winnipeg for a long time and even now, when you come back, everybody is talking about trying to get a new team."


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