Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Chalk up Chipman's success to the four Ps

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WINNIPEG'S jubilation this week over the NHL's return to the city was no lucky shot in the dark.

League commissioner Gary Bettman spoke here Tuesday about True North Sports & Entertainment chairman Mark Chipman's "patience, perseverance, professionalism and persistence."

What Bettman was really talking about was at least three previous engagements by Chipman with other NHL clubs in a variety of distress.

One of those dates back to mid-2007, when the True North chairman was introduced to then-Nashville Predators owner Craig Leopold.

A face-to-face meeting, with Bettman's blessing, took place quietly in Nashville.

"It was just purely exploratory," Chipman told the Free Press on Tuesday. "Their ownership was looking to sell that team and they were in a position where the team could not only have been sold but moved and in the end, very quickly, a local ownership group emerged and as you have seen, that's the NHL's m.o. -- they don't like teams moving.

"When the ownership group emerged there, that was the end of the discussion."

The Predators were eventually sold to that local group led by David Freeman in late 2007.

Fast forward about two years and Chipman received another contact, this time out of the blue from a member of the Atlanta Thrashers ownership group.

Discussion

"It was a short-lived conceptual discussion that never really amounted to anything," Chipman said. "I don't know what else I can say other than it came at a time when their ownership was exploring for the first time the idea of selling their team. It was exploratory and never materialized."

The discussion ended as quickly as it started in 2009 because the NHL deemed the contact unsuitable at the time.

In the spring of 2010, True North again found itself talking about an NHL franchise, this time the bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes. The Winnipeg group went a long way down the road to a potential purchase before the City of Glendale, in late May, came up with the $25 million cash demanded by the NHL to cover the team's losses in the desert for 2010-11.

That process set the table for Chipman's ultimate successful play that concluded this week with the sale of the Thrashers.

-- Campbell

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 2, 2011 C3

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