SUN Hockey Pool

No moving trucks just yet

Winnipeg could be first in line if a U.S.-based NHL team decided to move north of the border. (Sun...

Winnipeg could be first in line if a U.S.-based NHL team decided to move north of the border. (Sun Media File)

TED WYMAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 3:31 PM ET

It's getting tougher and tougher for even the most vocal naysayers to completely dismiss the notion of the NHL returning to Winnipeg.

While there are still many hurdles to clear -- some of them at pole vault height -- it is becoming evident that the NHL brass is not the source of any major roadblocks.

"We do have an interest in returning teams to Canadian cities that have hosted and supported NHL teams historically," NHL commissioner Bill Daly told the Toronto Star on the weekend.

"Both Winnipeg and Quebec City have done that, so we'll see how things transpire. That doesn't mean southern Ontario won't or can't be considered. It will be."

Daly's comments don't mean moving trucks will be pulling up to the MTS Centre any day now, but they do suggest the NHL head office's perceived anti-Canadian bias is a myth.

With recent rumours of an Atlanta Thrashers move to Winnipeg backed by Toronto money man David Thomson and a bid by Quebecor chief Pierre-Karl Peladeau to resurrect NHL hockey in Quebec City, Daly's comments have to be considered encouraging.

"We're open to considering every market that could potentially support an NHL franchise," Daly told the National Post. "Obviously, given the popularity of NHL hockey in Canada, Canadian markets have to be considered as prime candidates for future expansion or franchise relocation, to the extent the relocation of an existing franchise becomes necessary. There is, however, nothing currently planned or imminent in that regard."

Perhaps there is nothing imminent, as in this week, month or calendar year. But we know there are as many as 10 teams for sale in the NHL and at least two teams that are considering relocation (the Phoenix Coyotes and New York Islanders).

The Thrashers, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators could all follow that trend in the coming seasons.

Come this spring, at least two teams might be on the move and if the NHL is seriously considering Canadian locations, Winnipeg better make sure it is front and centre.

After all, it's not all just talk in this town, is it?

"Given the right circumstances we would definitely be willing to explore returning a franchise to Winnipeg," Daly told the Post. "But there remains a long way between here and there."

Maybe not as long a way as we once thought.

ted.wyman@sunmedia.ca


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