'Peg mayoral candidates differ on how to land NHL team

ROSS ROMANIUK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:18 AM ET

Winnipeg’s two mayoral candidates are facing off over the city’s future NHL prospects, with generally opposing views on how to score another franchise.

Challenger Judy Wasylycia-Leis says city hall and the provincial government should get into the game with MTS Centre owner True North Sports and Entertainment and its chairman Mark Chipman, though incumbent Sam Katz wants the private sector to carry the play on any franchise move to Winnipeg.

“There should be a role on the part of the province and the city to support such an initiative, and to be involved in making it happen,” Wasylycia-Leis, who announced her candidacy this week, said Friday of the “exciting” possibility of Winnipeg re-entering the NHL after the Jets went to Phoenix in 1996 to become the Coyotes.

“If I were the mayor of Winnipeg, I would eagerly want to — on an urgent basis — sit down with Mr. Chipman and all of his partners to help facilitate a deal, and move it forward.”

While Wasylycia-Leis said any franchise purchase should be mainly “a private-sector initiative,” she stressed that Ottawa should also take part in supporting it.

“We need to make sure there’s a strong partnership between the province and the feds with the other partners to make this happen,” she said without giving details, “and to fulfill this dream in a way that makes sense to Winnipeg.”

Katz, however, said any talks toward a big-league team’s return should remain “between the private sector and the NHL,” whether they involve the Coyotes or any other franchise.

“Governments should do what?” Katz asked, slamming his opponent’s push for the public sector to jump in.

“Politicians interfering at this particular point could only cause grief and aggravation. The NHL has a process they follow. Right now, we just have to let the process go through,” he added.

“This is private-sector-driven. Let the private sector do whatever it has to do. That’s the best thing.”

Katz noted, as well, that “there has been no request of government at this stage of the game” in closed-door talks involving True North, so there’s nothing for governments to interfere with.

Katz’s comments come after he said Thursday that Winnipeg’s chance of returning to the NHL is better than at any time since the Jets left the city, and that it could happen in as little as three years.


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