'No rallies needed'

James Barnabe, of Royal Sports in Winnipeg, holds up a Jets jersey on Sunday. (QMI Agency/Marcel...

James Barnabe, of Royal Sports in Winnipeg, holds up a Jets jersey on Sunday. (QMI Agency/Marcel Cretain)

JASON HALSTEAD, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:51 AM ET

WINNIPEG -- The more the merrier.

That's the message some Winnipeg hockey fans hoping for the NHL's return have for their enthusiastic counterparts in Quebec City, who staged a large rally there Saturday to express support for bringing back a team of their own.

Local shinny fans and members of groups who have pushed the idea of bringing a NHL franchise back to Winnipeg said Sunday they would love to see more teams in other Canadian cities, too, but think Manitoba's capital is beyond the point of needing public rallies to prove its suitability.

"I'm happy Quebec is showing its interest as well," said Lauren Robb, who runs the website winnipegjetsonline.com. "Good on them for a rally of that size. But we're well aligned and now have everything but a team. We're in a good spot."

Quebec's mayor estimated the crowd at Saturday's rally on the Plains of Abraham at between 75,000 and 100,000, many sporting jerseys of the Nordiques, the team that moved to Colorado in 1995.

"In our case, we're obviously pulling for Winnipeg, but we're hopeful for Quebec City and other cities in Canada to get NHL franchises," said Chris Mackie, who runs the website myNHLincludesWinnipeg.com. "It doesn't have to be an us-versus-them mentality. It's a case where we're hopeful that many more markets in Canada will eventually have NHL teams."

Pierre Karl Peladeau, head of Quebecor, the company that owns the Winnipeg Sun, is interested in owning an NHL team but the issue of a new arena for the Quebec capital remains. The city and the province of Quebec have pledged 45% toward the estimated $400-million cost of the new rink and many there are calling for the federal government to kick in funding.

The NHL's Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix and became the Coyotes in 1996.

With the potential ownership group of Mark Chipman and David Thomson of True North Sports and Entertainment, and an arena already in place in Winnipeg, the Coyotes could end up back in the Keystone province if negotiations fail to produce viable ownership for the franchise.

"I don't think what they do in Quebec impacts what will happen here," said Winnipegger Jonathan Schmidt at the Pro Hockey Life sporting goods store on St. James Street. "I don't think we need to rally. I think enough people have let it be known that we want a team and that we'll support it. I think it's just a matter of time now here. The ownership group is here."

Winnipegger Jim K., who did not want his last name published, said "any team for Canada is a good thing."

"But I don't think we need (a rally)," he said outside the same store. "It's a done deal, and we'll get a team."

In August 2005, about a dozen hockey fans calling for the return of an NHL franchise to Winnipeg were nearly outnumbered by media when they held a rally at Portage Avenue and Main Street.


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