Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Too early for name that team

But for what it's worth, NHL club in Winnipeg shouldn't be called Jets

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In the end, this is a totally personal decision.

No decision can make everyone happy and some folks will no doubt be displeased with the final outcome.

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Should True North Sports and Entertainment acquire an NHL franchise for relocation to Winnipeg's MTS Centre, it will require a name. True North has long been sensitive about this issue and refuses to entertain questions on the subject. It's one of the the organization's No. 1 no-noes. They have long contended they would not make a decision on what to call a team until they had one.

Calls to the organization Tuesday on this subject went nowhere.

The NHL owns the Jets name and logo and deputy commissioner Bill Daly had this to say in an email when asked if True North would have access to those trademarks.

"Haven't been asked and haven't considered," wrote Daly.

So believe what you want. Some are convinced there is some secret room in the basement of the MTS Centre with a set of jerseys all made up.

Colour me skeptical.

True North has entered talks with the owners of the Atlanta Thrashers to buy and relocate the team to Manitoba. The status of those negotiations is unknown but a decision must be reached in the very near future as the NHL is working on its schedule for the 2011-12 season and must have resolution to complete a final draft. The league routinely releases its schedule in mid-June prior to the NHL Entry Draft.

Deciding what to call a team prior to having one is an excercise in "putting the cart before the horse," but there is near hysteria in Winnipeg over the prospect of NHL hockey returning.

What to call the team, if one ever gets here, is among the hottest topics in rinks, bars, homes and offices.

With that in mind, here are my thoughts on the subject as well as those of Free Press hockey writer Tim Campbell.

-- LAWLESS -- While I now consider myself a Winnipegger, I was not born and raised here and have no sentimental attachment to the Jets name. Had I been a fan of both the NHL and WHA franchises, perhaps I would feel differently but that isn't the case.

I never liked the team and I never liked the name. Spending over a decade working as a sports writer in this town has worn a lot of that off.

The Jets have come to symbolize good things to me. They're a major part of this city's rich hockey history.

But, and this is totally personal, I have more attachment to the Moose name and and logo.

I've covered the Moose for over 10 years and the organization is top rate.

The Manitoba Moose represent good things to me.

They mean class and respect.

And despite not winning an IHL or AHL championship in their 15 years, they've almost always iced a contender.

It's the pro team I've watched more than any other. My first sports assignment in Winnipeg was covering a Moose game.

Like I said, this is personal and most of us in this town will have a slant. This is just mine and it doesn't carry any more or less weight than yours.

The Moose have built something in this city and kept pro hockey alive when it could have died forever.

To me it would be a little unfair to discard this loyal uniform now that the soldiers are on the cusp of being invited to the palace ball.

Keep the antlers, they look good on us.

-- TIM CAMPBELL -- One supposes that if hockey fans are contemplating setting aside some of their hard-earned money to indulge a future NHL passion in Winnipeg, then they should be permitted to ponder the name to which they're about to declare their new, undying loyalty.

When my esteemed colleague Mr. Lawless asked me to participate in this exercise, the reflexive "cart-before-the-horse" objection was voiced to him, noted and then negotiated to the point of me agreeing to say a new team's name should be anything but Winnipeg Jets.

It still seems brashly presumptuous to be naming a team not yet acquired. How better to pressurize expectations to the point of risking great pain if this doesn't materialize?

And what's the hurry?

But since everyone seems obliged to have an opinion on this, I dislike very much the groundswell to use Jets -- too much baggage, failure, turmoil and pain does not need to be brought forward to 2011.

Better any relocated team have a new start, a fresh beginning with fresh hope and as clean a slate as possible, though never underestimate outsiders' ability to heap their own doubt and unworthiness on the good hockey fans of Winnipeg.

This particular statement to the NHL and the hockey world should be something forward-looking for Winnipeg. Falcons is as good a choice as any, honouring a tradition (the Olympic team) and declaring a fresh start.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Tweets, blogs

and reports

A daily look at the news from a Return of the NHL to Winnipeg perspective

-- CBC's Elliotte Friedman believes a new team in Winnipeg would be named the Manitoba Moose.

-- Atlanta Journal-Constitution hockey writer Chris Vivlamore unmasks The Balkan as Detroit hedge fund operator J.B. Smith.

Vivlamore says Smith has made attempts to purchase the Pittsburgh Steelers and failed as well as being unable to provide financial proof to Atlanta Spirit documenting his ability to close a sale of the Atlanta Hawks (NBA), Atlanta Thrashers (NHL) and management contract for Phillips Arena.

Vivlamore says Atlanta Spirit has entered an exclusivity agreement with an unknown buyer to sell the Hawks and the Phillips contract. The Thrashers are not part of the agreement, meaning any prospective buyers would need to buy the Thrashers as a single entity.

-- TSN's Darren Dreger reports NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is telling league owners there will be no realignment for next season if Winnipeg replaces Atlanta in the NHL. A Winnipeg franchise would play out of the Southeast Division for the 2011-12 season and re-alignment would be discussed at a later date.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 18, 2011 C1

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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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