Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Regrets? Chipman has two

Team owner too busy to enjoy the moment

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Mark CHIPMAN'S hockey highlights just keep on getting bigger.

First it was acquiring his own team, the Manitoba Moose, then it was unveiling the plan for, then building, then opening Winnipeg's MTS Centre.

Tuesday, the chairman of True North Sports & Entertainment announced his group had bought the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers.

Any encores for Wednesday?

"No, but I have two regrets over the last 24 hours," Chipman said Wednesday, the day after his reported $170-million transaction for the Thrashers was announced. "I have no real feel for what's occurred. The emails, voicemails and texts that have been coming in that I haven't been able to respond to, that's one, and I feel overwhelmed somewhat that way.

"With every passing hour I get farther behind. That's kind of when I got the sense of magnitude of this. It's been piling up on me all day. And I would love to have walked around The Forks last night, and at Portage and Main, to really gauge and enjoy the moment.

"And I haven't had enough of a chance to thank people for their good wishes."

The lead-up to Tuesday's announcement had some tense moments, with the deal not done until the closing hours.

What was the problem?

"They were just logistical items, technical aspects of finalizing agreements," he said.

A day later, including an appearance on Hockey Night in Canada's Coach's Corner during Wednesday's Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final, does Chipman have a better grasp of the power of this hockey story?

"I've got a much better sense of it now, better than I did on Tuesday and even earlier today," he said. "We had been bunkered in, went from finishing the transaction in a heightened state of hard work and tough sledding, very intense sort of several hours and into a press conference that went by very quickly and then right into meetings.

"We had the commissioner here and the deputy commissioner and their staff and it was appropriate and timely to get to work on joining the league. Our partner, David (Thomson), was here with some of his people and we went right to work as soon as everything settled down with the formalities yesterday."

What impact did Thomson's presence have on Tuesday?

"We had long since determined he would be here when we announced it," Chipman said. "It meant a great deal to him to be here and likewise (to us). It was very, very meaningful on a couple of levels. He was here to let this community know why he's been involved and why he is prepared to take this step with us. That was very important. It was also important for him to get to meet and begin to know the NHL people."

Chipman said the question was wrong when asked if he ever dreamed of having the power to get people to party downtown and at The Forks as they did all of Tuesday.

"That's not correct," he said. "I think the NHL's return to Winnipeg is what unleashed that power. We're a part of it, in the chain, that's all. It's not like we singlehandedly did that."

Many people, including hockey fans here, seem to be hanging on his every word these days. And words on the new Winnipeg team's name will be the next item of anticipation.

Some think that every day that goes that the team isn't named something else makes the Jets harder to avoid.

"I would disagree with that," Chipman said. "We haven't ruled that name out. What I want to say on that subject is that there have been however many days since they left (5,511) and that has created the momentum behind that name. If it takes another few days, I don't think it's really going to matter.

"I really understand the passion behind the name. You know I know that. It's part of how I got involved in the first place, that NHL equals Jets. We've never had the opportunity here to discuss anything else, so if this takes another week to decide what we'll do there, I don't think it's going to make much difference."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 2, 2011 C3

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