True North Sports and Entertainment has reportedly been kicking the tires on a Western Hockey League franchise.
Word leaked out this weekend that True North had been having talks with a WHL owner about purchasing a franchise but they have now broken off.
True North spokesman Scott Brown would not discuss the matter saying only the organization would not be addressing the report.
A WHL franchise housed out of MTS Centre makes sense on a number of fronts. The Jets are sold out for a number of years and there is a vast market of hockey fans under-served in the city. True North has the infrastructure in place and a sales staff that could be mobilized to sell WHL tickets.
The WHL board of governors met in Las Vegas just over a week ago and there was no report on a sale of a franchise to be relocated to Winnipeg.
"Certainly Winnipeg could be on the radar at some point given that the model has worked well in Calgary and Edmonton. It did not however come up at our recent Board of Governor meetings," said Wheat Kings owner Kelly McCrimmon.
Three teams in the WHL operate in NHL cities with clubs in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. The Oilers owns and operate the Oil Kings in Edmonton while the Flames own the Calgary Hitmen. The Vancouver Canucks do not own the Vancouver Giants.
Those three teams are highly successful holding down three of the top four spots in WHL attendance last season.
WHL commissiner Ron Robison has gone on the record saying Winnipeg is a market the league would like to be in.
"If there was to be relocation certainly from an Eastern Conference standpoint, our first priority would be Winnipeg. We really feel that we can be successful in an NHL market now, in a similar way we’ve done so in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton successfully," Robison said during last year’s WHL playoffs.