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Moose taking care of business

Team signing up for another AHL season

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When the governors of the American Hockey League assemble today near Chicago's O'Hare airport, they'll all have an answer for president and CEO Dave Andrews.

It's a commitment to ice a team for the 2010-11 AHL season.

It's a commitment Moose governor Mark Chipman will make.

He and 29 other franchises are expected to sign up for October, bringing the developmental AHL, at long last, to a perfect 30-franchises-for-30-parents alignment with the NHL.

"That's correct, that everybody makes this commitment by the spring meetings and that's (Tuesday)," Chipman said from Chicago Monday night.

"The spring meetings are also the time for conference alignment talks and to see a preliminary schedule format, meaning who you play and how many times.

"We're expecting to play next year. This (meeting) is just a routine part of the business of our league."

The governors, truth be told, are more eager to hear from cities other than Winnipeg. They're looking for confirmation that the New Jersey Devils are going to move their AHL team back to Albany. They want confirmation that Carolina is taking its team out of Albany in favour of Charlotte. They want to be assured that Edmonton is back with its own franchise in Oklahoma City.

And they wouldn't mind hearing, just to be safe, that the Calgary Flames' AHL team is not moving again.

Other formalities to be settled today are the Columbus Blue Jackets abandoning Syracuse in favour of Springfield and the Anaheim Ducks, like the last-callers of musical chairs, getting Syracuse.

No surprises are expected, but that never means there won't be one or two.

In the case of the Moose, rampant speculation about the NHL's return to Winnipeg remains just that.

True to form, Chipman hasn't done anything hasty. He didn't give his AHL answer early, but neither is he going to ask for an extension today.

Why is this important?

Well, Winnipeg's NHL-wishers and conspiracy theorists have already proven they'll go to extraordinary lengths to justify their cloak-and-dagger fantasies.

They could twist any subject -- from the weather to their friend's uncle's doctor's dog-walker spying NHL dignitaries -- to mean that the league returning to the Manitoba capital is already a done deal.

Before you get the wheels turning, let's spare you some trouble.

Chipman already trotted out exceptions to today's deadline.

"Does it preclude us from not playing next year?" Chipman said. "There are lots of situations in my history in the AHL where teams didn't play and eventually paid the (franchise) suspension fee. Edmonton and Calgary come quickly to mind, so that's kind of a non-event."

The message is that there's a price for everything, be it going dark in the AHL or buying the Phoenix Coyotes.

Today, those items are not related, or relevant in Winnipeg.

Tomorrow? Well, it's anyone's guess as to how proposed new Coyotes owner Jerry Reinsdorf and his partners don't take a deal in which they invest next to none of their own money, where they have the city of Glendale paying the NHL with revenue from parking and bonds and other items, where losses are covered and where an out clause guarantees no capital loss.

Just as it's anyone's guess whether the Glendale city council will actually put ink to paper, which will be a big step from holding their noses and raising their hands in favour of a loosely fashioned memorandum of understanding that might not be worth a bucket full of cactus needles.

What does today's AHL deadline really all mean?

That the Moose are proceeding with business as usual -- no big stories, we noticed, about all the season-ticket renewals that went out last week -- because that's what successful businesses do.

But it won't stop the game of finding Gary Bettman in the darkest corner of a Winnipeg restaurant.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 10, 2010 C4

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