NHL May Return To Winnipeg, but Only Because It Has To, Not Wants To

Joe M.Correspondent IIMay 11, 2010

14 Apr 1996:  Center Craig Janney of the Winnipeg Jets looks on during a game against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks at Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California.  The Ducks won the game, 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Cratty  /Allsport
Glenn Cratty/Getty Images


That's roughly the number of days Winnipeg Manitoba has went without hockey since their beloved Jets were forced to move to Phoenix, Arizona following this loss , April 28, 1996 in the first round of the playoffs, of all places.

In an ironic twist of fate following Friday's news that prospective NHL puppet owner Jerry Reinsdorf's "bid" fell through, and Monday's hastily drawn up Ice Edge Holdings meeting with Glendale that subsequently—and some would say to no surprise—fell through as well, when the dust cleared, who was left but the little old province of whence it came, Winnipeg, Manitoba waiting to collect her child, re-branded the Phoenix Coyotes with open arms.

"Don't you ever try a stunt like that again!" Mother Manitoba likely will tell her prodigal sons when they fly come to Canada and once again become the Jets, pending tonight's kangaroo city council meeting of which will be streamed live over the internet via the Winnipeg Free Press whom will also simultaneously be running a live blog.

I mean, who are we kidding, Reinsdorf and his phony bid are out of which I was all over from the very beginning as suspicious at best, and the jokers that are Ice Edge Holdings, who despite their sweet sounding corporate name and seemingly good intentions, clearly lacked the capital as well as a vision of how to run a business from the very beginning.

Though them the words "Memorandum of Understanding " or MOU became synonymous. They struck out once when Reinsdorf seemingly won the bid and right to negotiate with Glendale. They again struck out Monday in what IEH CEO Darryl Jones called "50-50 at best " according to the Winnipeg Free Press .

In addition to all that, one of Ice Edge Holdings' demands was that the city of Glendale incur all the debt, roughly $20 million, that the NHL lost this past season when owning the team.

How is a city supposed to raise that much money? My guess would be raise property taxes as the only way, no way that was going to happen anyway in this economy, in a state already full of home foreclosures.

Also, concerning the Ice Edge bid is the unique "gift clause" that may be found illegal if challenged in court. Basically as explained better here in the Phoenix Business Journal, (which always has the best coverage on this saga by the way) what the NHL iis asking for-- the losses to be covered by Glendale, might not be legally permissable, thus possible even if they agreed to it and Ice Edge got the team.

Either way, when Ice Edge is your last hope, your only hope as the final American Invesotor, you know you're in trouble as Glendale finds itself tonight.

In the end, Ice Edge, much like Jerry Reinsdorf made the smart decision and realized it wasn't worth losing tens of millions of dollars each subsequent season in a region where the game wasn't loved or wanted the same way it always was and will be in Manitoba.

So when the dust settled and the music stopped, only Winnipeg and David Thomson's True North group was left standing, the horror of all horrors for the progressive NHL who abandoned such desolate prairies for the bright lights and big sounds of a new environment, in a thriving state in the United States.

Somewhere in Mr. Gary Bettman's high rise offices the following situation likely occurred. Bettman, surrounded by his Southern-strategy deputies quietly mumbled among themselves when a knock broke their silence:

"Mr. Bettman, Mr. Bettman, sir. There's a Mr. Chipman on line one. He's asking about a statement you are to address."

Sure enough, as the NHL commissioner and his friends squinted through their half-drawn eyes, a small red flicker could be seen illuminating the room.

The day had finally come.

The day no one in their right mind wanted to see, at least Bettman thought. It was the day that the team that initiated his grand Southern strategy of placing hockey teams in non-traditional climates which began with the Coyotes and ended with the Atlanta Thrashers, who I predict will be the next to move, would be forced to move back to the province on which it once left.

You see, its hard to admit when one is wrong as the NHL was, right from the very beginning. I discuss it all here in an April 6 follow up article: Is Jerry Reinsdorf the NHL's Pawn until Something Better Comes Along?

But the facts are the facts and it can no longer be denied or ignored.

Reactions in Winnipeg

As one might imagine reactions in Winnipeg range from the cocky: Winnipeg is looking mighty fine , to the confident: Ice Edge out; True North silent , to simply, the cautious: We may not be NHL-ready: The MTS Centre a bit undersized .

Concerning all three, Winnipeggers in general have a right to be cocky, they've waited 14 years to get a team back and as luck would have it, they wouldn't just be getting any old team back, but ironically their own , one that was stolen from them in the name of progress, all those years ago.

As for True North , when one is in the final stages of negotiation, it is often customary to be "silent" as the Press put it, lest they come off as looking like an Ice Edge fiasco. I wrote about that too, here on April 1st but I wasn't fooling around. Where There's Smoke There's Fire? Could the Jets, NHL Really Re-Unite?  

In fact, that link, like many of my articles, is a good place to follow the saga of which I've archived since I started following, hoping, and wishing last October when I wrote this article:  Nordiques, Jets, Whalers, Oh My: Could the NHL Revive Historic Teams?

Winnipeggers, now you have to go out and support your team.

No more sitting on the couch and merely watching the games. The Old Eyesore, the Winnipeg Arena complete with its 1955 charm on which it was built is gone and with that its obstructed, rafter seating. In its place, is a small, but manageable, and possibly expandable, MTS Centre which you have a chance to make your own.

Reactions in Arizona

Here is the front page of the Arizona Republic , Phoenix and Arizona's largest newspaper. One would think when one of your four major sports teams was possibly leaving the state, it would be not only big news but front page news. This absence should just about say everything you need to know about the apathy that finally cost them the team in the end.

As for the few Coyotes fans saddened by today's turn of events, I sort of feel bad for you in a sense that there is nothing you can do and never could have done. In the end, hockey was a failed experiment and you were the guinea pigs. At least you have the Suns and two other sports. Take heart in that.

As for your hockey team, it was really nothing personal. If you were located in Phoenix, Manitoba, or Phoenix, QC and had a 41-year history the Jets enjoyed before being snatched up against their will, I'd be fighting to keep you home but it is what it is. Simply a matter of location, location, location, and hockey belongs up North in traditional environments. At least my NHL does.

Want more proof? Check the schedule

While it hasn't been made official, there are reports circulating that should the Winnipeg Jets return to the NHL next season, they would play in the Northwest division with the Colorado Avalanche taking Phoenix's old spot in the Pacific of which they, the Avs, actually came before the Northwest was formed in 2000.

That along with the live feeds and blog to be shown in Winnipeg tonight seems to be proof positive of good things to come north of the border.

In the end it was simply not meant to be in the desert. We all knew that, some sooner than others. I could sit here and say "I told you so "  but not only is that obvious by my continuous article writing, but others will no doubt do that. Besides, save the fun for when it actually becomes official.

"Mr. Bettman?Line 1" his secretary asks.

A weak "H-hello " was all that could be heard coming from the room save for the blocks that no doubt were thrown in an earlier childish rant once reality set in and the forces  too strong, once it was determined the inevitable could no longer be avoided.

Information and references from the Winnipeg Free Press, Yahoo Sports!, the Arizona Repubic, The Phoenix Business Journal, Youtube, and the Denver Post directly contributed to this article.