NHL to Winnipeg hopes just won't die

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

WINNIPEG - I'd love to tell you this is the week. I really would.

Not just to end the suspense for you NHL fanatics, but for my own sanity (feel free to insert snide remark, here).

In case you're scoring at home, this week marks two years of the Phoenix Coyotes death watch.

That's right, it was early May, 2009, that former owner Jerry Moyes plunged the desert dogs into bankruptcy proceedings, causing the NHL to start mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while Canadian vulture Jim Balsillie circled overhead.

Since then the defibrillator and an entire team of paramedics has come on scene, and the poor 'Yotes have been rushed into emergency surgery, where they've remained for what seems like eternity.

I've written 68 columns or stories about the Coyotes since that first day in May, '09. Seriously.

This week's early developments are hardly signs of a stronger heartbeat. At least, it's hard to tell from out here in the waiting room.

The city of Glendale did pay that $25 million bill it received from the NHL late last week, fulfilling its promise to cover part of this season's losses if it couldn't close a deal with a new owner.

And 11 other mayors from Phoenix's West Valley came out in support of the Coyotes bailout package, which includes fronting $100 million of the team's purchase price, in the Arizona Republic newspaper.

But there's no sign the deal is actually any closer to being ratified.

Over in Ottawa, an independent, not-for-profit think-tank called the Conference Board of Canada released a report about NHL hockey in Canada that was equal parts fact, fiction, and old news.

Its conclusion: Winnipeg and Quebec City are better suited for the NHL than they were in the 1990s, mainly because of the improved loonie, the salary cap and revenue sharing.

Well, duh.

The fictional part of the report had to do with our downtown arena, which, the CBOC says, would have to be expanded by at least 2,000 seats in order to make the NHL viable.

I don't know how many times True North Sports and Entertainment has busted that myth, but it's enough to convince me. The press box is being expanded as we speak, the seating capacity isn't. And there are no plans to.

The report is a tad dated, too, in that it wonders where the money will come from to build a new arena in Quebec City, ignoring the fact city and provincial politicians out there in the NDP's new haven have already committed to building a taxpayer funded barn to the tune of a few hundred million bucks.

Apparently, Quebec's elected reps haven't learned a single lesson from the folks down in Glendale, who anted up for a new arena and are now being held hostage by the NHL and an opportunistic investor from Chicago.

A couple things in the CBOC report were interesting enough, one that Winnipeg might not be big enough to support both the NHL and the CFL's Blue Bombers. It's the first time any type of study has been done on that topic, and while it doesn't come to any definite conclusions, there's probably something to the premise.

There's no doubt an NHL franchise could siphon off some corporate and season-ticket bucks that might otherwise be earmarked for the Bombers.

At the same time all this chatter goes on, reports out of Atlanta suggest the local sticker price for the Thrashers is $110 million, and if nobody there wants them, True North would pay $170 million, with $60 million going to the NHL as a relocation fee.

I can't see Mark Chipman and Co. paying $170 million.

Then again, I couldn't see myself writing 68 times about the Phoenix Coyotes, either.

Make that 69.


Videos

Photos