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McKenzie: Could the NHL return to Winnipeg next season?

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Bob McKenzie
3/3/2011 12:02:06 AM
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The prospect of the NHL returning to Winnipeg has been much talked about for many years, but there is now, perhaps for the first time, a possibility of it happening and if it did, - notice the use of the word "if" - it could be as early as next season.

Now, don't confuse "a possibility" with "a real, good chance" because the key here is to keep this in perspective. While there's "a chance" it could happen, there's also "a chance" it could never materialize.

Still, one would have to say Winnipeg's chances have potentially increased if only because there may now be two possibilities - Phoenix and Atlanta - for NHL relocation.

Phoenix is currently on the NHL's front burner. The league is still working to find a way to close Matthew Hulsizer's deal with the city of Glendale to purchase the Coyotes.

The league is working overtime to overcome some issues with the sale of bonds that is critical to the transaction. It might work out. It might not. If it does, the sale is likely to proceed. If it doesn't, there are still some things the vested parties - Hulsizer, Glendale and the NHL - could do to salvage the transaction but there are no guarantees either. Time would appear to be a factor.

Winnipeg, of course, is ready, willing and waiting for the NHL. It has an owner and an arena and all have already done their due diligence on the Coyotes from a year ago and it wouldn't take a lot to update that scenario.

But if Phoenix should not turn out to be a viable option, perhaps Atlanta will.

The Thrashers' current owners want out. That's no secret. But they are obliged by NHL by-laws to sell to local interests that, so far, have not materialized. But that's a dynamic that could still change.

The point is, Atlanta hasn't gone through the reality of "the team might leave," scenario that generates momentum in the market to find a way to keep it there.

Maybe that happens. Maybe it doesn't. Too early to say.

Are you noticing a pattern here?

But I would say this is the first time I've sensed there may be some possibility for Winnipeg.

Time is tight. If the Coyotes and/or Thrashers are to play anywhere other than Phoenix and/or Atlanta next season, there needs to be some clarity in the next four to six weeks.

So let's see where this all goes.

Dale Hawerchuk (Photo: Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
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