'Peg trip a 'no brainer'

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

It's only an exhibition game, but Manitobans are going to have an opportunity to see The Great One, the remnants of the old Winnipeg Jets and quite possibly, the Stanley Cup champions, live at the MTS Centre.

Yesterday, True North Sports and Entertainment officially announced the Sept. 17 NHL contest featuring the Phoenix Coyotes, who moved from Winnipeg in 1996, and the Edmonton Oilers.

TRAINING CAMP

The Coyotes were the driving force behind the event and aside from serving as the home team, they're planning to spend three days in Winnipeg as part of training camp.

"We had the opportunity to play this game anywhere," said Coyotes assistant general manager Laurence Gilman, a Winnipegger who was in town for the announcement. "It seemed like a no-brainer for us. It was important for us to come to a hockey market, a place that would welcome us and have a world-class facility. When we looked at our options, we really felt there was no better place than Winnipeg."

Gilman said the Coyotes plan to bring roughly 40 players to Winnipeg and will practise three days here before departing for Edmonton for another exhibition game on Sept. 19.

He also stressed fans won't simply be seeing the AHL's San Antonio Rampage, who are the Coyotes farm team.

"The thing about the new collective bargaining agreement is that it created a very short window for training camp," said Gilman, noting the CBA dictates all teams must dress a certain amount of experienced players and top prospects. "Therefore, it's of critical importance for us to get our team to bond as soon as possible. This is a good opportunity to get everybody on the road, have some good times, be in a hockey market and get some games under our belt. We're going to set up shop here."

Manitoba Moose governor Mark Chipman is excited about hosting the first NHL exhibition game at the MTS Centre after two successful ventures at the Winnipeg Arena, one featuring the Vancouver Canucks and Minnesota Wild and the other pitting the Canucks and Oilers.

"This one has some more marquee value than the two prior games," said Chipman, noting he expects the fan support to be split between the Oilers and Coyotes. "With the success the Oilers have had in the playoffs, that adds some intrigue to it. And Wayne Gretkzy's involvement obviously does as well."

Chipman said it was just a coincidence that Manitoba's parent club, the Canucks, weren't part of this exhibition game.

"NHL teams can't do this every year and a lot of them have commitments to one another," said Chipman, noting Moose camp won't begin until after the Coyotes have departed. "We talked to Vancouver about it and they were 100% supportive of it. They didn't have a game they could make available this year. But part of our (affiliation) agreement is that they'll make their best efforts on a year-to-year basis to host a game here."

The Coyotes already made an impact on the community itself, making a donation of $50,000 to KidSport, which has been earmarked for youth hockey and the payment of registration fees to underprivileged children.

Tickets for the game range from $19 to $119, plus service charges, and are available by calling the Moose offices at 987-7825.

Existing season ticket and mini-pack holders have an exclusive opportunity to purchase their seats up until July 1.

Tickets go on sale to the general public on or around Aug. 18.

Chipman said the pricing is similar to what True North offered for the NBA exhibition game held last September, featuring the Toronto Raptors and Portland Trail Blazers.

That game attracted 10,900 fans.


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