The Winnipeg Jets might not be killing it in the standings,* but the return of the NHL is producing promising results, as you can see in this article by Kevin McGran.
Such a point might seem painfully obvious until you realize that there was some doubt that there wouldn’t be that big of a bump for the city since they already benefited from packed buildings via the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. (This is Canada, after all.)
Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz says that there’s been a serious bump in tangible and emotional ways, even if there aren’t many official numbers yet.
“Where we have phenomenal growth is people deciding to live downtown, something we’ve always wanted,” Katz said. “That was happening before, but the Jets continue it. But from my point of view, the greatest benefit that’s hard to measure is the feeling people have being back in the NHL. Everybody is talking about it, everybody is excited.”
Jets coach Claude Noel described relocating from Atlanta to Winnipeg as a “hidden thing” that has taken a toll on some players, but believes that the adjustment period is over.
If you ask a lot of people in Winnipeg, the return of the NHL has made a far-from-hidden impact on the city. Just imagine if the franchise could upgrade the Jets from a bubble contender to a genuine playoff team, then …
* – The negativity regarding their current state seems a little excessive, though, if you ask me. The Jets began January with a four-game road swing, had four of six in Winnipeg and then went on a six-game road trip. Starting in mid-February, the Jets will play eight games in a row at home. If they flub that, then go ahead and beat up on the young team.
While Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz seems to share his city’s impatience for the arrival of the Atlanta Thrashers, others are requesting that hockey-starved fans take it easy. Both NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger are asking people to calm down a bit about the situation.
Bettman said that “people need to take a deep breath and pause” because the deal isn’t done yet, also claiming that the league would only allow a team to move if there was no alternative. Much like deputy commissioner Bill Daly and other NHL executives, he didn’t deny that the Thrashers might move, either.
To be fair to the citizens of Winnipeg and Manitoba overall, they’ve been waiting about 15 years. Selinger noted that he is “totally excited” about the prospect of Winnipeg getting an NHL team again, but he echoed Bettman’s advice to remain patient.
“We know there is a lot of excitement about it in Manitoba,” he said Wednesday. “We know that we’re very well positioned in terms of the growth of our economy and our ability to support hockey. But we have to put our confidence in Mark Chipman and True North and have the patience to let them do their job.”
As much as those officials want to stamp out excitement, people are still on pins and needles to hear an official announcement. Sure, some celebrated the reports almost a week ago, but many are probably worried about getting burned again.
The uncertainty of the situation is prompting a lot of outlets to throw out their guesses for when an official announcement will be made. Here’s the latest take on when an announcement might take place, via Ken Campbell of The Hockey News.
All that is left to be determined, said a source, is when the announcement will be made by the NHL. It will either be done between now and the Stanley Cup final or between the end of the final and the draft. It is expected there will be an extended layoff of several days before the Stanley Cup final begins, which would give the league time to make the announcement of the sale and relocation.
The league is apparently of two minds when it comes to making the announcement. If it does so between the conference finals and Cup final, it would remove the speculation that would hang over the Cup final, but might also be a dominant topic when the league wants the focus to be on the series between the league’s top two teams. But if it waits, it risks having the speculation of the sale hanging over the final.
Naturally, we’ll keep you up to date as this situation progresses. Chances are there might be some more news (or at least a few extra rumors) this week.
(Need a rundown of some of the stories revolving around the Thrashers’ potential relocation? We have you covered. Click here for last night’s often-denied big report. Read all about Winnipeg hockey fans celebrating the relocation before it was made official. Want to know something disturbing? The Atlanta Spirit group is still selling tickets to Thrashers games. Finally, here are Joe’s five thoughts and your opportunity to vote on what Winnipeg’s name could be.)
Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz was adamant that the Atlanta Thrashers would be the more likely target even when all the buzz surrounded the Phoenix Coyotes returning to their original home. Now he’s saying that it’s only a matter of time before that Thrashers deal gets done, although he noted that nothing is official just yet, according to The Canadian Press.
Mayor Sam Katz said the deal to bring an NHL team back to Winnipeg is going to happen. There is an understanding the deal will move forward but nothing is signed, sealed and delivered yet, he said.
Katz said he’s been in touch with Winnipeg’s True North Sports and Entertainment, the company negotiating the sale, and has been told there is nothing official — yet.
“I do believe this will happen and it’s long overdue,” Katz said in an interview. “The Jets never should have left here . . . After 15 years, we’ll all be ecstatic to have them back. There is no doubt that the fan base is there. The corporate support is there.”
“This is a very different Winnipeg than it was 15 years ago,” Katz said.
If you believe Katz, we’ll find out if this “different” Winnipeg can support an NHL team the second time around soon enough.