Burke touches nerve with 'Peg

Brian Burke’s suggestion that Winnipeg’s NHL team will not always be a slam dunk at the box office...

Brian Burke’s suggestion that Winnipeg’s NHL team will not always be a slam dunk at the box office had ticked off local hockey fans.

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:25 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Never mind the Phoenix Coyotes. Seems Winnipeg’s top rivalry in its first season back in the NHL might just be with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

At least, based on the flurry of angry comments directed towards Leafs president/GM Brian Burke after his comments in Wednesday’s Winnipeg Sun.

Asked Tuesday in New York about Winnipeg and the slam dunk manner in which the NHL board of governors welcomed us back into the big leagues, Burke said long-term success here will be a challenge.

“It’s not a slam dunk,” he said, suggesting ticket buyers in new markets always experience a “rush of euphoria” that often dissipates over time.

“... they could have sold the building out three times,” Burke said. “But that’s the first five years. That’s the easy part ... it’s harder if the team hasn’t won a championship in five years and you’re renewing all those things. That’s the test.”

Other than being a little blunt, which he’s wont to be, I thought Burke was actually bang-on.

And while I couldn’t resist taking a little poke at his Leafs, wondering aloud which team, Toronto or Winnipeg, will make the playoffs first, Sun readers riddled the guy with bullets, both on-line and in e-mails.

Obviously, our dislike for all things Toronto is never far from the surface.

The NHL schedule will come out as early as Thursday.

I’m guessing the two Leafs dates will be circled on calendars in kitchens from Transcona to Thompson.

NAME GAME: What they’re going to call our new NHL franchise has sure got the population’s Jets jerseys in a knot.

Seems we’re days away from finally ending the nickname debate.

It may be Winnipeg, and it may be Manitoba — but it won’t be the Jets.

At least, that’s my guess.

I’ve been all over the map on the issue, starting way back when I just assumed it would have to be the Winnipeg Jets.

Over time, though, I began to buy into the idea that a fresh start wasn’t a bad idea, considering the Jets inglorious history.

When it turned out to be the Atlanta Thrashers coming here instead of the Phoenix Coyotes, aka the former Jets, that kind of sealed the deal for me.

But since True North told us the deal was done, May 31, the outcry for the old name has been deafening. How do you ignore that kind of public sentiment?

I believe we’ll be asking Mark Chipman that very question very soon.

THE CLUE GAME: Reading True North’s news releases this week may have provided some clues about the name to the amateur sleuths out there.

First, there was Chipman’s response to the positive board of governors vote, in which he mentioned the rabid fans of “this province” and promised to work hard to make “Manitobans” proud of the franchise for years to come.

Confounding matters later that same day, a release touting the official team website: winnipeg.nhl.com. Not manitoba.nhl.com.

The same release included an interesting reference to this week’s entry draft, “as general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff prepares to make the first selection in the team’s history.”

Hmmm. If this was going to be the Jets, then Friday’s draft pick wouldn’t be the first in team history, would it?

I know, True North won’t really own the Jets history, since it belongs to the Coyotes.

But let’s face it: if this team became the Jets, we’d all still consider Teemu Selanne, Dale Hawerchuk and, yes, Jimmy Mann, as our boys, right?

Seems this will only be the first draft pick in team history if the team is not named the Jets or Thrashers.

Take that for what it’s worth.

And bring on the Leafs.


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