'Peggers still optimistic about NHL return

JASON HALSTEAD AND PAUL TURENNE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

Just another bump in the road.

That's the way most of the Winnipeggers surveyed at Hooters in St. James saw Tuesday night's vote by Glendale, Ariz., city councillors in favour of a plan for that city to potentially cover the Phoenix Coyotes' losses next season if the league can't find a suitable buyer and has to continue its ownership of the team.

Most remained optimistic an NHL team will make its way back to Winnipeg despite the vote.

"It's a temporary stay of execution," said Colin, who didn't wish to disclose his last name, of the council's vote. "It's going to come back here eventually. We're the best alternative."

Tuesday's decision buys some time for potential ownership groups to negotiate a purchase of the financially troubled franchise and keep it in the southwestern U.S. city. Both potential ownership groups had been waiting for Glendale council to work out what effectively is an insurance policy to cover operating losses.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in Glendale Tuesday the NHL could work with both prospective owners and could have a deal signed within weeks. Both groups have said they plan to keep the team in the desert for at least five years.

The Coyotes have lost an estimated $10-20 million each year since moving south from Winnipeg 14 years ago.

"I think people in Glendale have given up on hockey," said Duane Cridlind of Fort Frances, Ont., who regularly came to Winnipeg for Jets games.

But others have all but given up on Winnipeg ever getting a team again.

"As long as Bettman's around, he won't bring a team back here," said Dave Ross. "He won't admit he's wrong."

Mayor Sam Katz said he fully expected Glendale's council to approve the deal and therefore remained positive about the potential return of the NHL to Winnipeg. Katz said he still believes an NHL team could be playing here within three years and that it won't necessarily move here from Phoenix.

"Based on the economic status of some franchises, there will be opportunities," Katz said. "Anybody who follows sports knows the name of some of the franchises that are in trouble. They come up all the time.

"The best thing that government can do is keep its nose out of it. It should be private-sector driven."


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