Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Barn needs a few tweaks

Minor upgrades and MTS Centre will be ready for NHL action

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They came, they saw, they rearranged some furniture...

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and some staff from league headquarters were in Winnipeg Thursday to meet with True North executives and tour the MTS Centre. And while there will be some key issues that will have to be addressed in order the make the building NHL-ready, Daly said the barn -- with a few adjustments -- should soon be good to go.

"We're pretty familiar with this building, but obviously we have facility guidelines and standards," he said. "Mark (Chipman) was made aware of them before he finalized his transaction.

"I think this building is pretty much in compliance with our standards as it is, but the things we're focussed on are camera positions -- obviously, there are a lot more camera positions needed in an NHL facility -- the boards and glass system they're going to change out to make it compliant with our standards. We're looking at the ice-making capacity in the building. But other than that, the building is in pretty good shape."

One of the key changes: MTS Centre features seamless glass and Daly said a recent study shows an acrylic system is safer, prompting a league mandate to be issued a couple of months ago requiring all buildings make the switch.

Meanwhile, NHL staff continue to be impressed with the vibe in Winnipeg since the announcement of the league's return last week and, especially, with the quick commitment of season ticket holders to gobble up 13,000 seats.

"It's pretty amazing," said Daly. "We were certainly hopeful the city would respond the way it did, but the levels to which they responded and the speed to which they responded was pretty amazing. (NHL commissioner) Gary (Bettman) and Mark had talked previously and kind of had a gentlemen's bet about how quickly the marketplace would respond and obviously it exceeded anybody's expectations."

The bet, by the way, was won by the commish -- "Everybody wanted to be conservative in their views," Daly explained, "but the commissioner was more bullish than Mark."

Finally, Daly expects the NHL's Board of Governors to slam dunk the relocation and sale of the Thrashers to True North at their meeting in New York on June 21.

"One of the great benefits this city has had was to have Mark as the steward of this process because he's been fantastic from the start and it continues to be a great story," Daly said.

"He was in New York this week and we had an executive committee meeting on Tuesday. He and David Thomson both presented to our executive committee and they had a really compelling story to tell about why Winnipeg was right for the National Hockey League right now and why the National Hockey League was right for Winnipeg. Clearly he has the support of our executive committee and we'll move toward our board of governors meeting.

"I have no reason to believe it won't be unanimous."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 10, 2011 C2

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