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Return of NHL hot topic at breakfast

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Above the jazz band, dance performances, violin solos and even the spoons, you could almost hear the opening chords to Jump.

The Van Halen anthem, which filled the Winnipeg Arena every time the Winnipeg Jets skated out on to the ice at the beginning of a period, was playing in virtually everybody's heads this morning at Ecole Robert H. Smith School.

Students, teachers, politicians, business people and police officers were there to raise money for CancerCare Manitoba at the school's annual community breakfast, but you couldn't move from the potato pancakes station to the juice boxes without somebody mentioning the (growing?) possibility of the Phoenix Coyotes coming back to Winnipeg.

Thursday's press conference by Elaine Scruggs, the mayor of Glendale, at which she pleaded with the Goldwater Institute to lift the threat of a lawsuit so it can go ahead with a $116-million bond offering to subsidize the purchase of the Coyotes by Chicago businessman, Matthew Hulsizer, has buoyed local spirits.

In between flipping pancakes, Deputy Mayor Justin Swandel said he was "hopeful and optimistic" that the bond deal would fall through and that True North Sports & Entertainment would swoop in, buy the team and move it into the MTS Centre this fall.

"We've been up and down this pole a couple of times. Every time there's news out of Glendale, people get their hopes up. The news on the bond deal has got everybody torqued up," he said.

"I'd love to see an NHL franchise back in Winnipeg. We've just got to be patient."

Winnipeg Police Chief Keith McCaskill said he's increasingly confident that the Jets -- or whatever they might be called -- will fly once again. Even if the City of Glendale pulls its situation out of the fire, disinterested ownership of the Atlanta Thrashers could sell their team to TNSE instead, he said.

"It would be a big vote of confidence for the city. When Winnipeggers would travel through parts of North America and Europe (during the Jets years), the locals would know where Winnipeg was because of the Jets," he said.

The repatriation of the three-time Avco Cup champions isn't keeping Annitta Stenning, executive director of the CancerCare Manitoba Foundation, up at night -- that honour goes to the non-stop need to raise funds for research -- but she's definitely following the latest developments.

"I used to have Jets season tickets. We are amazing sports fans in Winnipeg, sports is a big part of our culture. If Winnipeg makes up its mind to do something, nothing can stop it. We're a force to be reckoned with," she said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

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