Cool your Jets, Winnipeg
NHL return near, but don't party yet
TED WYMAN, QMI Agency
|Hockey fans Ryan Abbott (left) and Alex Snell cheer outside 4Play Sports Bar during a "Bring Back the Jets" rally in Winnipeg.
The hysteria surrounding the possible return of the NHL to Winnipeg has reached fever pitch and the rumour mill is working overtime to churn out the latest speculation.
The hottest rumour making its way around the streets and sports bars of Winnipeg and around the world on Twitter this week is that the announcement of a team returning to the city will come on Friday. In fact, the story goes, Winnipeg police and the city are already planning to cordon off Portage and Main for the announcement and the ensuing celebration.
Could be the Phoenix Coyotes or the Atlanta Thrashers are relocating.
Doesn’t matter. The rumour mill doesn’t concern itself with such minutiae.
The hopeful among us will certainly take delight in this positive conjecture, the most optimistic planning to book Friday off, others simply spreading the word in hopes a massive impromptu street party breaks out on Canada’s most famous street corner.
The realistic among us will take the latest from the rumour mill with a huge grain of salt and remember when the announcement of a team was supposed to happen on March 4, 2010, shortly after the end of the Olympics.
Everybody in the city knew somebody who knew somebody who knew for a fact this was going to happen.
I’m not saying there won’t be an announcement this week.
Anything’s possible in this crazy story that has consumed us all for so long.
What we do know is that we’re closer than ever to seeing an NHL team move to Winnipeg. There is a ready and willing ownership group which has done all the leg work and preparation necessary to bring a team here on short notice.
The fact that a team could move here is no longer in question. It’s just a matter of which team becomes available and when.
It looks pretty good that it will happen soon, but there are still no guarantees.
The latest we’ve heard from anyone who is willing to go on the record, that would be NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, is that the league is still working to try to make a deal to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix.
They are running out of time and may soon have to turn to Winnipeg’s True North Sports and Entertainment, a potential owner which has truly been a silent partner in the entire Coyotes saga.
But Bettman insists no deal is done with the Winnipeg group and even if there were, we find it hard to believe this incredibly tight-lipped organization would reveal it to anyone in order to get Portage and Main ready for a party.
The Phoenix Business Journal reports that Bettman and the NHL are aggressively putting together a new financing deal to help Matthew Hulsizer buy the Coyotes and keep them in Phoenix.
Not sure I believe that one either, as the rumour mill seems to be just as active in Arizona as it is in Winnipeg.
We also heard this weekend that former Major League Baseball pitcher Tom Glavine is trying to put together a group to purchase the Thrashers and keep them in Atlanta. He said it, so it’s not merely a rumour, but he also admitted he doesn’t have the financial wherewithal to do it himself and will need major investors on board.
The bottom line is we have every right to be hopeful about the return of a team in the near future.
But it seems unlikely there’s a date set for the official celebration.
At least, not yet.