Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bonds yield dividends

Team unity can turn hard-sell city into a place for talent to come to, stay

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Kris KING will tell anyone listening his favourite days in the NHL were spent in Winnipeg and the current group of Jets is coming around to the same conclusion.

King was a captain and fan favourite with the Jets in the late '90s and had stints under the bright lights of both New York and Toronto but found his time in Winnipeg the best, citing a team togetherness that spread beyond the locker-room.

Current winger Tanner Glass says the same bonds between players and their families are beginning to form in Winnipeg and it can only pay dividends down the road.

"It's turning out to be a great place to play. It's been great for me. It's only been half a season but the organization treats you right, and away from the rink it's been a real family atmosphere," said Glass. "We've spent a lot of time as a team away from the rink. It's what it takes to build a strong-knit group."

That the Jets are enjoying our town and settling in well is a nice little story on the surface but has far-reaching implications in terms of the future of the franchise.

Lots of snarky observers will flat-out say the Jets can never attract marquee free agents because of Winnipeg's reputation as a small-market city with the worst climate in the league.

Winnipeg may be short on supermodels and palm trees but Glass believes quality people will want to come here when they realize what the city and franchise have to offer.

"It's gonna be huge for a small market like this with such a cold climate," said Glass. "If players realize that it's a good place to come, especially if you want to spend time with your teammates and significant others this is a great place. It's a credit to the captains and the captains' wives that we do stuff together and that people get along."

There's an old expression in sport, "25 players, 25 cabs," that describes teams that don't play well together on or off the field.

"I've been in places where you would never see the rest of the guys except for at the rink. That's not the way it is here and it's a lot of fun," said Glass.

The Jets have eight players heading for unrestricted free agency and four others will become restricted free agents on July 1.

Glass is one of those slated to become a UFA but he says if the team comes to him earlier with the right offer, he'd be glad to stay.

"I love it here. It's been a great experience for me," said Glass, who has been one of Winnipeg's most consistent performers this season.

Keeping players is one step, attracting them is another. The Jets have already begun to work on making this a desirable place to stay. Time will tell if they can make it a spot players search out.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 20, 2012 C3

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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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