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City councillor wades into NHL speculation

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WINNIPEG - Another member of city council has wandered into the maelstrom of rumours swirling around the prospect of the NHL returning to Winnipeg.

River Heights-Fort Garry Coun. John Orlikow used his Twitter account this afternoon to ask whether anyone has heard of a "Thrashers announcement" on Friday.

"Thrashers announcement 4:00 pm Friday is what I have been hearing today," Orlikow said one hour later in a second tweet.

A rumour about a public announcement has been circulating for weeks. It has been debunked by the mayor’s office, NHL and True North Sports & Entertainment, who are expected to purchase an NHL franchise if either the Phoenix Coyotes or Atlanta Thrashers become available.

Reached by telephone, Orlikow said he had no solid information about a public announcement and had only heard the rumour today. He simply wanted to know whether there was anything behind the rumour.

On Wednesday, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz urged Winnipeggers not to pay attention to any rumours. But during the same scrum with reporters, Katz also said he believed the Phoenix Coyotes will remain in Arizona this year.

Elmwood-East Kildonan Coun. Thomas Steen, the former Winnipeg Jet, shied away from the speculation.

"I don’t know anything. I have nothing to say and I don’t like talking about it," he said.

Thirteen other members of city councillor have yet to weigh in on the NHL’s return this week. But it’s only Thursday.

'No idea what he's talking about'

Meanwhile, Katz's speculation about the future of the Coyotes drew some fire from different NHL sources late Wednesday and today. Katz said he was privy to "commitments that were made when they went there," that are a sticking point -- commitments that could cause a lawsuit if the team moved.

Apparently the mayor isn't aware of the way a bankruptcy proceeding works, one league source suggested.

"We have no idea what he's talking about and no idea why he's talking when he doesn't have any idea what he's talking about," was the comment from the source.

The Coyotes were put into bankruptcy in May 2009 and later sold to the NHL in a bankruptcy court auction.

Katz's remarks about the Coyotes or other franchises relocating to Winnipeg, when he's not involved in the matter, is counterproductive, another league source said.

"Very unhelpful, unless he's just looking for his own headlines," the source said.

NHL sends Glendale $25M bill

Also today, the Arizona Republic reported that the NHL has sent a bill to the city of Glendale for losses it agreed to fund for the 2010-11 season.

The city agreed last May to back up to $25 million in team losses for the season just completed.

The NHL has this week submitted monthly invoices to be reimbursed for monthly cash losses starting last September. The total cash losses to the end of March are stated as $36,609,938. The league is asking for payment of $24,810,000 by Monday from the escrow account set up at a Chicago bank last spring.

The city had promised its taxpayers that it eventually wouldn't need to pay the league the $25 million it had agreed to give the NHL because a buyer for the team would assume the financial responsibility.

Glendale, however, has been unable to complete a lease with potential buyer Matthew Hulsizer, even almost four months past a Dec. 31 deadline the NHL had imposed. The league still owns the team and will soon be looking to make a choice -- close a deal with Hulsizer or relocate the team, quite possibly to Winnipeg.


Updated on Thursday, April 28, 2011 at 2:10 PM CDT: Clarifies losses and amount billed to Glendale.

4:19 PM: Adds city councillors' comments.

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