Pens migrating to Ontario?

JODY VANCE -- 24 Hours Toronto

, Last Updated: 9:47 AM ET

We have heard the cry before: "if they build it, we will stay" -- the health of any NHL franchise seems to hinge on whether or not the city comes through with funding for a new arena.

History shows that state-of-the-art beats rich history in many canadian cities. The Air Canada Centre over Maple Leaf Gardens, General Motors Place over the Pacific Coliseum, Bell Centre over the Forum in Montreal and on and on.

So it was no big surprise that when Mario Lemieux finally found a buyer for the Penguins in Jim Balsillie, chairman and co-CEO of Research in Motion, the Canadian-based company behind the popular BlackBerry products and services, the first "control-alt-delete" was aimed at shutting down the ancient Mellon Arena.

Currently the oldest in use in the NHL, when the ribbon was cut at the aluminum-covered Mellon 45 years ago, this UFO of a building was not even constructed for hockey but for the Pittsburgh Civic Opera.

There was no catchy address of "66 Mario Lemieux Place" back in 1961 either.

No amount of fresh paint can spin this building into a magnet for fans.

When the purchase agreement was signed and the Lord of the Berry took the reins, everyone smiled for the cameras and said all the right stuff. Unavoidable doubt was thick in the air as the Pens were sold. It's doubtful fans were sold on the promise this team would stay put in Pittsburgh.

If this saga were to have a "Hollywood North" ending, perhaps the Penguins would find home ice north of the 49th. Unfortunately for Jets and Nordiques fans, the billionaire behind the PDAs is more of an Ontario-minded man, so it's less likely that the NHL would return to Manitoba or Quebec and more likely we would see the creation of the "BlackBarries".

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Jody Vance is a sportscaster with Leafs TV. Her columns appear Tuesdays and Thursdays in 24 hours. jody.vance@tor.sunpub.com.


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