Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Stow your sourpuss attitudes, whiners

Don’t moan about province wanting to help NHL team

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We want an NHL team. We want the international cachet that comes with that membership. We want young people to want to stay in Winnipeg because of the cultural and sports entertainment advantages we can boast.

Why the hell wouldn't our premier and any other government official want to offer support for such a venture? Some are complaining about such support. They're wrong.

We're not talking about using collected tax dollars, but a portion of new gaming revenues generated by the presence of an NHL team in our downtown.

No team, no extra revenue. It's win-win. Add to the coffers while improving quality of life in the province at no added expense. That's the kicker here -- we're not digging into our pockets but instead utilizing revenue that otherwise wouldn't be generated. We're investing in ourselves.

If we want the benefits of having an NHL team in our city, both economic and social, then as a province we should have some skin in the game.

Free Press reporters Bruce Owen and Bill Redekop reported in Thursday's paper sources are telling them additional VLTs and a sports betting lounge could be used to help support an NHL franchise.

No tax dollars diverted to the hockey team, but a portion of new lottery revenues generated by the presence of an NHL hockey team being directed towards existing debt on MTS Centre.

The province and True North Sports and Entertainment are not offering details on the arrangement at this time but Premier Greg Selinger was very careful to point out his government is not in favour of public or taxpayer support of a hockey team.

"We're not interested in any way subsidizing the team," Selinger said. "The team is entirely the responsibility of the private sector."

If cutting True North in for a slice of new lottery dollars helps to ensure the long-term success of such an entity and the benefits that come with it, our government would be foolish not to make an investment.

An NHL hockey team will result in 15,000 or so people converging in our downtown at least 41 nights a year. No other business can create that kind of surge in a Canadian prairie town.

For 15 years Winnipeggers have been complaining about the loss of our international status due to the departure of the Jets and now with that wrong potentially on the verge of being righted, some are sniffling about government support of an NHL franchise.

We want to rub shoulders with the New Yorks and the Chicagos and the Torontos but we don't want to do our part to ensure the ongoing viability of the franchise.

If the argument can be made that an NHL franchise will improve the quality of life in Manitoba, then certainly our government should do what it can to help out.

Government played a role in building the MTS Centre and now that it's on the verge of housing an NHL team that will give our downtown core added verve, like the pulse we've seen on big concert nights since the new rink opened, it wants to take part.

MTS Centre "has made a huge difference in Winnipeg," said Selinger.

So would an NHL hockey team and if we can help make it happen and work we should.

Get in the game, Manitoba, or be happy to once again let it pass us by.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 20, 2011 C1

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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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