SUN Hockey Pool

Hotchkiss backs Phoenix

Harley Hotchkiss doesn't want an NHL team moved to Hamilton at the expense of the Coyotes. (Sun...

Harley Hotchkiss doesn't want an NHL team moved to Hamilton at the expense of the Coyotes. (Sun Media/Lyle Aspinall)

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

Harley Hotchkiss would love to see another hockey team in Southern Ontario.

After all, the former chair of the NHL board of governors is from tiny Tillsonburg, Ont., an hour away Hamilton.

However, while he's sure a team there would be viable thanks to the CBA he helped draw up, he doesn't want a team moved there at the expense of the Phoenix Coyotes.

"I think the league has a real obligation to keep the team there, and it's critically important that you just can't move teams," a candid Hotchkiss said yesterday at Eau Claire Market, where the tireless Flames owner and philanthropist was Honorary Chair of the Rick Hansen Wheels in Motion event.

"There is a process, and if there wasn't, Pittsburgh wouldn't be where they are."

Frankly put, he's not sure the Flames would still be here either following the attendance, currency and on-ice woes the club suffered through a decade ago.

"I look back, and without the help of the league, currency equalization and the fans we wouldn't be here," said the 81-year-old Hall of Famer and Order of Canada recipient.

"Phoenix deserves every chance. Can they make it? I don't know. But you have to give local fans every chance to support it. Look at Pitttsburgh. It wasn't all that long ago they were perilously close to moving. It's a good example of how the league fulfilled its responsibility there."

While some fans may disagree with his stance, are pulling for Jim Balsillie and are content to write off any chance of a desert resurgence, Hotchkiss' thoughts reflect that of most league governors who've been told by the league to keep their thoughts to themselves. Hotchkiss recently handed Flames governor duties to Murray Edwards.

As an aside, Hotchkiss demonstrated again why he's one of the most admired men in Calgary yesterday by showing up at the event in a wheelchair following two extensive spinal cord surgeries that recently had him recovering in Foothills Hospital for 10 days. Despite being begged by his staff to rest at home, he wheeled up to the event aimed at raising money for spinal cord injury research.

Those who've read his recently-released book, Hat Trick: A Life in the hockey rink, oil patch and community, know this country is a better place because of people like him.

Now more notes, quotes and anecdotes from a sports world wondering if Marian Hossa will now re-join the Pens.

AROUND THE HORN

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PARTING GIFTS

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