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NHL cash call like prostate exam

Awkward, necessary and over quickly

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Often, a doctor has to employ somewhat invasive procedures to get a true temperature reading. These probes come at the cost of some dignity, but it’s for the best in the long run, so we grin, bare it and bear it.

So let’s not get our knickers in a knot because the NHL wants to do a bit of poking around in Winnipeg’s financial nooks and crannies before granting the city an NHL franchise.

It’s a necessary step should this city want to regain entrance to the league.

Is it a little off-putting to have our honour tested? I guess so, but last time I applied for a mortgage the bank did a credit check. It wasn’t comfortable and while I was waiting for the results I may have conjured up a few bad thoughts about the bank. But when the good news came in all was forgiven.

According to Free Press sources, the NHL and True North Sports and Entertainment continue to talk and investigate the possibility of relocating the Phoenix Coyotes to Winnipeg. Before any deal between True North and the NHL can be completed, the league will want to exhaust every one of its dwindling options in Arizona.

Should the NHL fail in Phoenix and move to the altar with True North — there will be a vetting process of the Winnipeg marketplace. The NHL will want True North to demonstrate its ability to operate a financially viable franchise. Ticket sales are a major source of revenue in the NHL and the league will want assurances that Winnipeg is capable of filling the 15,000-seat MTS Centre over the the long run. Is it fair? Do other places have to go through the same process? Both are legitimate questions, but in the end irrelevant.

The NHL determines who gains entrance into its club. Maybe they have different rules for different markets and maybe that rubs some of us the wrong way. But that’s the reality and we have to get our head around it. That will be up to Winnipeg. If we don’t like having a gun to our head we can just take a pass.

But kicking up a fuss and railing against the injustice of it all won’t change the final outcome.

Winnipeg is not getting an NHL team without demonstrating its viability as a market. End of story.

"Certainly, one of the things the board has to have satisfied is that the market is capable of supporting an NHL team at NHL prices. But that can be done in a variety of ways, depending on the market. There is no one ‘cookie cutter’ approach here," said NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly in an email to the Free Press on Thursday.

A potential frat boy doesn’t get to question the merits of his chosen brotherhood’s initiation. Nope, the only accepted answer is, "Thank you sir, may I have another?"

The NHL’s board of governors and commissioner Gary Bettman care little for our sense of fairness. They run a business and they once had a franchise in this town that failed. Before they do it again they’re going to want to know if it will work the second time around.

The best way to test our market is to put tickets up for sale and see how people react. If we buy the first year and agree to commit to two more — great. If not — that’s life.

Either way the NHL, True North and we as Winnipeggers, will have our answer.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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