Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

102 million reasons to get Coyotes

Projected revenue would put 'Peg in top half of all NHL franchises

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BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Revenue and fans appear to be scarce in more markets than Phoenix, where the financially troubled Coyotes continue to struggle along without a settled future.

If the NHL is looking or plans to look at other options, the one waiting on that side table with Winnipeg's True North Sports and Entertainment will be a lot more solid than the league's skeptics think.

TNSE owns the MTS Centre and the AHL's Manitoba Moose and its interest in an NHL franchise is well-known to the league.

That interest is legitimate, and so are its revenue projections.

Sources, including one from Winnipeg, have confirmed that the $102-million annual revenue number for potential Winnipeg NHL franchise run up the flagpole by Hockey Night in Canada's Scott Oake last Saturday is a realistic scenario.

It's higher than some hockey people might have expected but a nine-digit number isn't far-fetched.

And if it would be realized, $102 million per season would today put a Winnipeg franchise in the top half of annual NHL team revenue.

In his report, Oake cited $45 million in annual ticket revenue from an average per-ticket price of $75, $19 million in broadcast revenue, $15 million in in-arena revenue, $10 million from luxury boxes and $13 million (the maximum) in NHL revenue sharing.

Sources have said that the overall number is no dream, nor is it any kind of reach, though the report's ticket price is on the high side.

If the ticket revenue number is actually lower, however, it would easily be offset by True North's concert and event revenue outside of hockey, which is believed to be considerable.

At this week's general managers' meetings, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made it clear -- as he did last Tuesday in Glendale, Ariz. -- that he is not near declaring a deadline for a resolution of the Coyotes matter.

He also indicated that the time frame for that resolution continues to dwindle because the league is eager to set its lineup for next season.

Beyond that, Bettman remains highly reluctant to talk at all about Winnipeg because he's deeply concerned about raising expectations.

He does answer the odd question at press conferences about the subject but basically says the same thing every time -- that he doesn't think it's fair to raise expectations and that he's aware of TNSE's interest in acquiring a franchise. It's a given Bettman and most of his board of governors are aware of those hypothetical Winnipeg revenue numbers.

But presently, they run away from the subject not because they can't bear the thought of a team returning to the Manitoba capital, but because they have no other choice but to support the Coyotes deal.

It's their obligation. The Coyotes are not only owned by the NHL (from bankruptcy) but they are a member club and as such, are entitled to the full support of their partners.

When Bettman's and the NHL's options run out in the desert, they have a pretty good idea about where to turn.

And Winnipeg revenue numbers like the ones cited are no grand secret, and they will make the decision pretty easy.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 17, 2011 C3

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