Politicians get behind new Winnipeg team

PAUL TURENNE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:04 PM ET

WINNIPEG - The Manitoba government believes it has found a way to help ensure Winnipeg's new NHL team stays in River City "forever."

Manitoba Lotteries will re-allocate 90 of its lowest-performing slot machines from Winnipeg's two casinos to a sports bar owned by True North. A True North spokesman said it's undetermined at this point whether that will be at an expanded Tavern United or a separate facility.

True North will keep the revenue from the additional machines.

Premier Greg Selinger said he never wanted the government to contribute capital towards purchasing the team or get involved in funding its operations, but was happy to help support the MTS Centre, which will be home to the new team.

"(It's) to provide support, up to $4 million a year, to deal with the mortgage on the facility and allow the facility to carry itself, and they can concentrate their energies on making the NHL franchise viable," Selinger said, noting the hit to provincial revenues will be "very modest" because the machines are the lowest-producing ones at the casinos.

The premier was almost bubbly with enthusiasm at the press conference announcing the Thrashers' relocation Tuesday.

"NHL, welcome home. It's great to have you back here where you belong. We've missed you and we're going to make it work forever now that you're back," he said.

Mayor Sam Katz said there are obvious economic benefits for the city's downtown, restaurants, hotels, etc, but that the announcement means more than that.

"I think we've all talked about the economic impact but I think what's more important is the pride of Winnipeggers is being restored after a 15-year absence. It's something that you can't measure. In my opinion it's priceless," Katz said.

Even Prime Minister Stephen Harper got in on the congratulations Tuesday, issuing a statement that read, in part :

"Today is a historic day for Canadas game. On behalf of all Canadians, I am extremely pleased with todays announcement that the NHL will return to Winnipeg. Hockey is Canadas great passion and Im excited that Winnipeg will reclaim its special role in our countrys national pastime."

"Memories of legendary Winnipeg Jets players such as Bobby Hull, Dale Hawerchuk and Teemu Selanne remain fresh in the minds of all Canadians. The moments created by these players were inspirations to generations of young hockey players across Canada and I know that the new team will inspire countless young Canadians to put on their skates and carry on Canadas proud hockey legacy."

paul.turenne@sunmedia.ca


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