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MTS Allstream digs deep to keep its name on Winnipeg arena

The Canadian Press

6/16/2011 12:11:35 PM

WINNIPEG -- Homegrown telecom company MTS Allstream has anted up to keep its name on what will now be an NHL arena in Winnipeg but the name of the team remains an unknown.

The new deal for the MTS Centre extends until 2021 with an option to continue. MTS president Pierre Blouin wouldn't say how much was paid, but he confirmed it was a lot more than when the American Hockey League's Manitoba Moose played at the arena.

"Because of its importance, it's a few times more," he said Thursday, adding that MTS didn't waste a lot of time taking the plunge. "I would call it a no-brainer decision."

The original agreement was the best corporate sponsorship the Winnipeg-based company had ever secured, Blouin said. Adding the NHL brand sweetens it a lot.

"It's a huge exposure in terms of brand in terms of name throughout the country."

MTS is a dominant player in both the wired and wireless worlds in Manitoba but has a tiny footprint nationally compared with companies such as Telus, Rogers and Bell.

Besides getting the naming rights, MTS also outfits the arena with its network and broadcast hardware.

Jim Ludlow, president of True North Sports and Entertainment, also refused to say how much the deal is worth, but confirmed it's the biggest sponsorship agreement the agency has. He suggested it sets a new benchmark for naming deals in smaller NHL markets.

As for the new team's name, Ludlow is no longer predicting it will come before Tuesday's NHL board of governors meeting, where the sale of the Thrashers to True North is expected to be approved.

He's not even predicting a name before the NHL draft next Friday.

"That's tough -- unlikely -- possible, but there are a number of issues," he said.

"We just have to manage our way through and, whether it's next week or the following week, get to the point where we can make the right decision and the right announcement at the right time."

Fans have been pushing to see the return of the Winnipeg Jets name which left with the team that moved to Phoenix in 1996 and became the Coyotes. Other names that have been suggested publicly include the Manitoba Falcons, in honour of the first team to win an Olympic gold medal in hockey, the Winnipeg Falcons.