Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Chipman takes umbrage with author

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Conference Board of Canada released its latest sports-oriented study on Thursday saying that it believes Canada could support nine NHL teams.

While a definite positive commentary on the economic conditions and the passion for hockey, one of the study's authors left a bad taste in the mouth of Winnipeg Jets co-owner and governor Mark Chipman.

Mario Lefebvre, one of the co-authors of the study, told The Canadian Press on Thursday that he has some reservations about Winnipeg as well as potential markets in Quebec City and Hamilton.

"These are markets that are going to need dedicated ownership," Lefebvre told CP. "You're going to need an owner that is not going to pack the bags the first time that they hit an annual loss. In all likelihood, it could happen.

"We'll need dedication -- someone that's not there for a quick asset flip."

The fact that Lefebvre suggest "it could happen," that Chipman and partner David Thomson might well pack their bags when and if they encounter a money-season in Winnipeg, prompted a critical response from Chipman late Thursday.

"I've never met anybody from the Conference Board," Chipman said. "If that's what he actually said, that they thought that our ownership group (would give up), that would be disappointing to learn they put us in that group.

"On what basis? I would like to know why they'd think our commitment to bringing the NHL would be that shallow. It's hard to even respond to that. I can't imagine that's what they're actually suggesting.

"I don't know what to make of that particular comment or the report other than to say, the Conference Board has a history of producing valuable information for various sectors of the Canadian economy," Chipman said.

-- Campbell

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 10, 2012 C3

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