Feds onside with rescue bid

PETER ZIMONJIC, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

Prime Minister Stephen Harper joined politicians of all stripes by throwing support behind a bid to bring the ailing Phoenix Coyotes NHL team to southern Ontario.

Speaking to reporters in the Czech Republic, Harper said he has spoken to a couple of NHL owners in the past to make the argument for another team in southern Ontario.

"I'd love another NHL team in Canada," Harper said. "Particularly, southern Ontario can support another team."

Harper was responding to news that Research in Motion co-CEO Jim Balsillie has made a $212.5-million US offer to buy the financially strapped team on the condition it moves to southern Ontario, probably to Hamilton.

Meanwhile in Ottawa, Dean Del Mastro, parliamentary secretary to the minister of Canadian Heritage, said federal infrastructure funds could be made available for upgrades to facilities should the deal go through.

"We've got a number of infrastructure funds that we are working on right now and if the city of Hamilton wants to submit a bid to upgrade a facility, then that would be considered under that fund," he said.

The Peterborough MP said Balsillie is a good man whose bid was serious and should be considered by the NHL.

"I can't see any downside in why (the NHL) would do anything but welcome this investment to save a failing team, taking it from a region that does not have a natural connection to the sport of hockey, and moving it to an area that is hockey-starved," said Del Mastro.

NDP MP Wayne Marston also threw his party's support behind any possible deal to bring the Coyotes to Hamilton, saying he would also support the idea of the city getting federal infrastructure money

SPINOFF JOBS

"For us, that would mean the reworking of Copps Coliseum, making it into a larger structure," said Marston. "The spinoff jobs would be wonderful and Hamilton is a big sports community, so I am sure (the city) and surrounding area would feed that team very well."

The Liberals were also quick to sound off on the idea that Canada could get a seventh team from the 30-team NHL. Liberal MP Ralph Goodale, a former Liberal finance minister, also sung Balsillie's praises, saying the Blackberry CEO has the deep pockets and business acumen needed to make the deal work.

"I think there is no doubt at all that the market in southwestern Ontario is big enough, strong enough and sufficiently steeped in hockey enthusiasm that it could undoubtedly manage to support another team," Goodale said. "If it were to come to pass I think all of us would say, great."


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