'Peg bid too good to pass up

ADAM WAZNY -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

Hey, guess what?

The 2007 IIHF Women's World Hockey Championship is coming to Winnipeg.

The big wheels from Hockey Canada were in town yesterday, confirming the WWHC would in fact be coming to the Manitoba capital April 4-11, 2007 at the MTS Centre.

Most hockey observers knew last month that Winnipeg had beaten out a Toronto bid for the rights to the nine-team women's tournament, and given how this city performed with Hockey Canada events in the past, it's no wonder the Winnipeg application, chaired by MTS president Cheryl Barker, came through.

"They get your attention as soon as they walk through the door," Hockey Canada president and chairman of the site selection committee Bob Nicholson said of the bid. "Winnipeg came out on top because of the partnerships they have with all levels in the game of hockey.

"When you look at this facility, it certainly was an excellent bid."

With a bigger capacity than Toronto's older Ricoh Coliseum (15,015 to around 10,000), the MTS Centre was a centrepiece of the bid, proving itself to Hockey Canada last winter when Winnipeg hosted the 2005 world junior selection camp and three exhibition games featuring Canada, Finland, and Switzerland.

"That had a big impact, but Jan. 1st had even more," said Nicholson, alluding to the New Year's Day women's exhibition game between Canada and the United States -- a game which drew a surprising 12,628 fans.

TESTED THE DIAMOND

"We had the '99 world juniors here, so we knew where the interest was for junior hockey, but we hadn't tested the diamond in the women's game -- the U.S.-Canada game," he continued. "For an exhibition game to get over 12,000, we felt that if we can package this right, we'll have over (that) for all the games."

With the Olympic tournament next month, there will be no WWHC for '06. Canada last hosted the WWHC in 2004 in Halifax and that year, organizers and Hockey Canada made roughly $500,000.

In '07, the guarantee has gone up slightly.

"We're looking at $750,000, but any of the money we make out of this will go back into our programs in the women's side and the grass roots side of the game," Nicholson said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to have a huge impact here for Hockey Manitoba, so that they can grow the female side of the game.

"We want girls to be able to dream the same way boys do, to put on the Canadian jersey and play for Team Canada."

That's one of the reasons why Hockey Manitoba president Brian Sarna was thrilled to hear the official announcement yesterday.

The women's game in this province -- well, it just got a big shot in the arm.

"The very top players have committed their lives to playing the game," Sarna said. "This will just give players a sense of what the end result could be for some of them."

A full schedule and ticket information will be announced at a later date.

Manitoba has three players with the Canadian Women's Olympic team. Forward Jen Botterill is on the active roster, while netminder Sami Jo Small and defenceman Delaney Collins are alternates.


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