Winnipeg fans hope NHL Coyote woes lead to more teams in Canada

Winnipeg hockey fans, whose hearts were ripped out when their beloved Jets became the Phoenix Coyotes over a decade ago, are crossing their fingers in hopes the financially strapped NHL franchise could be returning to Canada.

The NHL has taken control of the cash-strapped Phoenix Coyotes

Winnipeg hockey fans, whose hearts were ripped out when their beloved Jets became the Phoenix Coyotes over a decade ago, are crossing their fingers in hopes the financially strapped NHL franchise could be returning to Canada.

They’re hoping a Coyotes move may pave the way for other cash-crunched U.S. sunbelt franchises to run for the border, which could be good news for them.

“I think this may start a house of cards,” said Darren Ford, who oversees the long-running “Return of the Jets” grassroots campaign to return NHL hockey to the Manitoba capital.

“The numbers are there. Winnipeg is a hockey hot bed. The fan base is here, the corporate support is here, the new arena is here. It’s only a matter of time.”

The Coyotes could be headed to southern Ontario if Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie gets his way.

On Tuesday, the co-CEO of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion made a US$212.5-million offer to buy the Coyotes. The deal is conditional on moving the team to southern Ontario.

Winnipeg hasn’t seen NHL hockey since the Jets — hemorrhaging money and failing to find a new owner — moved to the desert in 1996.

They took with them almost a quarter-century of hockey memories from a team that was the flagship of the fledgling World Hockey Association in the 1970s, but failed miserably after joining the NHL in 1979.

Ford, whose pride and joy is an autographed rookie Teemu Selanne Jets jersey, says he has had more than two million hits in six years on his www.jetsowner.com website.

Fans log on in to discuss the latest relocation news or gnash their teeth over cities like Miami hosting NHL games where the empty seats outnumber fans two to one.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has never ruled out a return to Winnipeg, but has never given the idea any impetus either.

The league is now locked in a legal battle over the Coyotes, who had been losing money all season and needed cash infusions from the league. On Tuesday the team filed for bankruptcy protection and took steps to sell the team to Balsillie, bypassing normal league approval procedures.

Balsillie has been rebuffed in earlier attempts to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators with an eye to moving them to a market such as Hamilton or Kitchener-Waterloo.

The moves have angered the league’s upper echelon, and Ford says Balsillie may not be a good fit.

“He seems to be ticking the league off too much. I’m not sure I’d want a Jim Balsillie in Winnipeg’s corner,” he said.

Jets supporter Lauren Robb says Balsillie or not, he doesn’t want the franchise back. They were dogs, he says, long before they became desert dogs. In 17 seasons the team rarely made it out of the first round of the NHL playoffs.

“The whole franchise has been a failing non-event ever since it came into the league,” said Robb, who has chronicled the history of the Jets on www.winnipegjetsonline.com.

“But just coming up north (to Canada) is a good idea, to show if one team from the southern region fails and they’re able to move up north, that gives the idea to other failing southern teams.”

Robb, 32, says his fondest Jet memories are the “White Outs” — when fans jammed Winnipeg Arena in the playoffs, all dressed in white, blowing horns and waving flags.

“That was one of the loudest things I ever experienced,” said Robb. “We could be losing and we were still loud.”

As an 11-year-old, he was rinkside when Jets goalie Daniel Berthiaume broke a stick in pre-game warm-up, skated over and handed it to him.

“I held this thing like you wouldn’t believe through the entire game making sure no one took it from me. It was one of the greatest things.”

Just Posted

WATCH: Central Albertans learn about farm life at Sunnybrook Farm Museum

Pioneer Days Festival in Red Deer Saturday-Sunday

Raising awareness for Bikers Against Child Abuse

Second annual Raise A Ruckus Against Child Abuse was held at the Red Deer Radisson Hotel Saturday

Number of seniors who play bridge in Red Deer growing

Red Deer Bridge Club has been around for close to 60 years

Central Alberta Yogathon cancelled Saturday

Due to air quality concerns the fourth annual event will take place Sept. 15

Update: Buccaneers win 38-13 in final home game

Bucs off to the finals with the win

WATCH: Medicine River Wildlife Centre opens new playground

The grand opening of the playground was Saturday morning

Ottawa announces $189M to extend employment insurance for seasonal workers

ESCUMINAC, N.B. — Ottawa has announced $189 million for an employment insurance… Continue reading

Trudeau formally announces he’ll run again in next year’s election

MONTREAL — Justin Trudeau will run again in the 2019 federal election.… Continue reading

Smoke from B.C. wildfires prompts air quality advisories across Western Canada

VANCOUVER — More smoky, hazy air is expected to blanket much of… Continue reading

Anti-pipeline protesters released days before weeklong jail sentences end

MAPLE RIDGE, B.C. — Several pipeline protesters were released from a British… Continue reading

All eyes on Andrew Scheer as Conservative convention set for Halifax

OTTAWA — After a week of internal caucus squabbles, Conservative Leader Andrew… Continue reading

Trump says his White House counsel not a ‘RAT’ like Nixon’s

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump insisted Sunday that his White House… Continue reading

Wildfire moves closer to Glacier National Park’s scenic road

MISSOULA, Mont. — A wildfire in Montana’s Glacier National Park is forcing… Continue reading

Prime Minister Trudeau, Premier Couillard march in Montreal’s Pride parade

MONTREAL — Thousands of cheering spectators lined the streets of Montreal on… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month