Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Now, about that team nickname thing...

With deal done, focus shifts to name game and Jets isn't off table

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They are nameless, not faceless, but it won't take long for Winnipeg's 'new' National Hockey League franchise to be christened.

Question now is, how indelible is the imprint left behind by the Jets and Moose franchises or does the organization turn to a brand spanking new nickname like Falcons, Gold, Mosquitoes, Brass Monkeys or any other suggestion from thousands of fans playing the name game?

"(The 'Jets' name) is not off the table," said Mark Chipman, chairman of the board for True North Sports & Entertainment. "We haven't been able to engage in that subject, but we will do that now. We haven't ruled out any names. We've honestly been very, very focused on concluding this transaction."

The Moose name will remain in the True North family, either here with the NHL or with another Canadian city where the farm club is relocated and will serve as the feeder for the big-league team in town.

"I can tell you this organization has spent a lot of time developing traction within the community and building that brand," said True North president and CEO Jim Ludlow. "We've always been passionate about our Moose brand and inside this family of companies that brand will run somewhere... whether that remains with the AHL affiliate or with the National Hockey League, we just don't have any expectation of losing that brand."

Asked to comment on the thousands of fans who are pleading for a return of the 'Jets', Ludlow added:

"It's passion. And it's an important underpinning of what you see in this community. That's one of many variables you need to consider in your brand and brand development."

Contrary to widespread gossip, the Jets name is owned by the NHL but available if the franchise ownership here wants it.

"I think that's really a decision Mark Chipman and David Thomson and their organization have to make," said commissioner Gary Bettman. "I've heard both sides of the argument. If in fact they want to use the Jets name, we will make it available to them."

Asked if that would come at a price, Bettman replied: "No. What a cynical question."

The NHL will be working with True North on testing how colours or a logo show up on television, but all that work will be done in advance of the governors meeting in New York on June 21.

And in three weeks the franchise's first-round draft choice, seventh overall, will take to the stage in St. Paul, Minn., and throw on a hat and a jersey. Won't he?

"There's been some thought on that," said Chipman. "I don't know if we absolutely have to have a logo done by the draft. We're going to be focused on that seventh overall pick, not what jersey he's got on.

"We're going to get to the name right away, but we're not going to rush through a design process just so we can show up in Minneapolis and put a jersey on him that doesn't reflect our brand, our culture and our community."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 1, 2011 C5

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