SUN Hockey Pool

Where's the love?

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:41 AM ET

WINNIPEG - My, my, wasn’t that an interesting weekend?

No, I’m not talking about the NHL all-star fantasy draft and subsequent laugher of a game, which had to be the most ado made about nothing since the last Britney Spears tour.

Don’t know about you, but I’m still reeling at the way the Sedin twins went at each other. And Phil Kessel, picked last? The horror.

Seriously, what was interesting were a couple of tidbits regarding the potential relocation of the league to Winnipeg.

First, NHL commish Gary Bettman told us all to just chill out, which, at this time of year is like telling Einstein to grab a brain.

Apparently, we shouldn’t be getting our long johns in a knot just because the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes seems to be dragging on longer than winter itself.

“We’ll hang in there as long as it makes sense and as long as we can,” Bettman said, dramatically redefining the term “sense,” given the financial follies currently underway in Glendale, Ariz.

Then, on Sunday, a real head-scratcher: the results of a poll by the NHL Players Association pegging Quebec City as the players’ first choice for relocation or expansion.

More than 300 players were asked, “Which Canadian city deserves an NHL franchise?” And 53% chose Quebec City, more than double the support for Winnipeg, at 25%.

Apparently, the concussion epidemic is far more widespread than we’ve been led to believe.

I realize I’m a tad biased, but Quebec City doesn’t even belong in the conversation until it has an NHL-ready arena. And so far all it has is a $400-million pie-in-the-sky concept, of which some $175 million remains unfunded.

And if anybody thinks the feds are going to rush to close that gap, they need their own personal neurologist.

The moment anybody in Ottawa writes a cheque to support pro sports in Quebec is the moment western Canadians begin plans to vote him out — unless there’s an identical cheque in the mail for Alberta, Saskatchewan and good old Manitoba.

Feel free to hold your breath waiting for that, but don’t expect me to make the funeral arrangements.

Last time I checked, there hasn’t been anybody in Quebec stand up and say they’re willing to write a cheque for, say, $170 million to buy a team, either.

I’m not sure Mark Chipman of True North Sports has agreed to write one that big, but I know he’s at least been in the same room as Bettman and has an understanding, ready to pull out his wallet should Bettman decide to hang the “Ready to Relocate” sign on the Coyotes.

So, to recap: Winnipeg has a building, and an owner. And Quebec has what, exactly?

Blowhard politicians? Check. But the NHL could give a rat’s behind about that. Rabid fans? Absolutely. I always thought the Nordiques were better supported than the Jets, actually. Usually had a better team, of course. And what a rivalry they’d have with the Habs, again.

But to say Quebec City deserves a team first is like choosing a Corvette over a 4-by-4 for a Winnipeg winter. It’s style over substance.

Remember Jim Balsillie? He was ready to turn Copps Coliseum in Hamilton into the Taj Mahal, and look where that got him.

The NHL didn’t like his style. But I get the feeling it kind of digs the substance provided by True North Sports

We probably shouldn’t be surprised at the poll results.

Your average player doesn’t look past the weather and the night life when determining the merits of an NHL city.

You’ll notice the poll question asked which Canadian city deserves a team.

Without that stipulation the answer might have been Las Vegas.

Given the choice, the average NHLer might even choose Phoenix.

Like the all-star game, it doesn’t mean a thing.

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca


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