Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Katz thinks Coyotes won't move

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MAYOR Sam Katz has waded back into the return-of-the-NHL fracas, this time speculating the Phoenix Coyotes will remain in Arizona.

Speaking to reporters outside his office following Wednesday's city council meeting, Katz said he does not believe the troubled Phoenix franchise will return to its Winnipeg birthplace.

"Do I believe the Coyotes are coming to Winnipeg? My answer would be no," Katz said.

"I believe the Coyotes will stay in Phoenix and they will do everything they can, because I happen to know some of the commitments that were made when they went there. And there were commitments that if they weren't fulfilled, there could easily be a lawsuit. So I think you have to start looking at some of the other potential franchises."

The mayor did not name any specific franchise. In 2010, he said he believed the Atlanta Thrashers were coming.

Katz said Winnipeg is capable of supporting an NHL franchise once more, but encouraged fans not to get their hopes up or listen to rumours about the club's imminent return.

The mayor went on to suggest True North Sports and Entertainment's ability to purchase an NHL team allows the NHL to use Winnipeg as leverage against NHL cities struggling to retain their franchises.

Meanwhile, rookie Elmwood Coun. Thomas Steen, who played centre for the Winnipeg Jets from 1981 to 1995, said he believes NHL players will enjoy playing in Winnipeg again should a team relocate to Manitoba.

"There were sometimes rumours around the league Winnipeg was cold or not a nice place to live," he said. "After they had been here for a while, most of the guys loved it."

Steen said he was amused by negative comments made about Winnipeg by Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who hails from Tolyatti, a Russian city east of Moscow.

Steen said he played in Tolyatti in the late 1990s as a member of the Berlin Polar Bears and was taken aback by the crime.

"When I was there, we couldn't leave the hotel," he said. "They were going to rob us, so we had armed guards in the hotel lobby."

-- Bartley Kives

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 28, 2011 C1

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