SUN Hockey Pool

NHL leak says Winnipeg ‘viable’

Reports indicate that a 'viable' buyer could still move the Phoenix Coyotes to Winnipeg. (Jesse...

Reports indicate that a 'viable' buyer could still move the Phoenix Coyotes to Winnipeg. (Jesse Johnston/QMI Agency)

JASON HALSTEAD, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:07 PM ET

Until a team hits the ice at the MTS Centre, Winnipeg hockey fans are likely to remain a skeptical bunch about the possible return of the NHL to the city, no matter how many documents are leaked.

Despite the revelation this weekend that the NHL has for the first time acknowledged a viable new owner for the Phoenix Coyotes franchise in this city, local hockey fans surveyed Sunday at the St. James Hooters restaurant won’t be setting aside money for season tickets just yet.

In the document obtained by The Globe and Mail, the league informed Glendale, Ariz., city council it must find a new owner for the Coyotes by the end of December or the team will be sold to a “viable purchaser”, identified by the Globe as Winnipeg’s True North Sports and Entertainment, which would move the team to Manitoba’s capital.

The NHL’s Winnipeg Jets moved to Arizona and became the Coyotes after the 1995-96 season.

“We’ve seen this kind of stuff how many times now?” said Winnipegger Steven Smilinski. “Until there’s actually a deal it doesn’t change anything.”

Larry Kocis was also skeptical.

“I’ll believe it when I see it and when everything is signed,” he said. “But hopefully it’s for real.”

The City of Glendale reached an agreement with the league last Friday to cover the team’s losses up to $25 million next season if someone doesn’t step up to purchase the team first. The Globe obtained a copy of that agreement, which includes the NHL’s ultimatum to the City of Glendale about the “viable purchaser” in Winnipeg.

“I still think it just another ploy for the NHL to pressure Phoenix,” said Jason Lapointe. “I’d love to see (the Jets) back here but I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Scott Bryga saw a bit more hope in the leaked document, but still fears Winnipeg is just being used as a pawn by the NHL.

“It’s a little closer to what we want, I guess,” he said. “But I’d like to see an actual deal and not that we’re maybe being considered as a back-up plan.”


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