Fans won’t quit trying

Hold rally for return of NHL team to city


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As the fate of the Phoenix Coyotes continues to become more convoluted, Winnipeg Jets fan Alex Snell believes this city has little left to prove it's deserving of getting an NHL team back.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/04/2011 (4378 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

As the fate of the Phoenix Coyotes continues to become more convoluted, Winnipeg Jets fan Alex Snell believes this city has little left to prove it’s deserving of getting an NHL team back.

Snell was one of more than 100 Jets fans who filtered into the 4Play Sports Bar on Portage Avenue Saturday afternoon for a sit-in rally supporting the possible return of the team.

But unlike other cities that have had an NHL team pried away from them and staged theatrical events in an effort to get it back — like Quebec City — Snell said he feels Winnipeggers’ best tactic is to sit back from the edge of their seats and ride out the “perfect storm.”

“I don’t feel that we have to prove anything. We’ve done everything,” said the 31-year-old. “We’ve sold out world junior games out in Winnipeg, in Grand Forks. We’ve sold out events at the MTS Centre every time we have something important here. We don’t need massive rallies.”

That was reflected in Saturday’s low-key event, where fans dug into plates of nachos, drank beer and simply watched highlight reels and recorded games of former Jets glory while playing trivia and sharing the occasional speech.

Snell and friend Ryan Abbott believe the MTS Centre, Canada’s strong dollar and the NHL’s new structure, which includes a cap on player salaries, play well into Winnipeg’s favour — something that didn’t exist when the Jets left in 1996.

“We’re kind of seeing a perfect storm. It almost has to be next season, if not the season after that,” said Snell.

The current deal to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix remains in limbo. The Goldwater Institute, a taxpayer watchdog, intends to file a lawsuit over Matthew Hulsizer’s deal with the City of Glendale to purchase the team. Latest rumours say Chicago White Sox and Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf is once again considered a potential player in the purchase.

“It is getting a bit more ridiculous,” said Abbott, 31. “I think the main reason is that, from my perspective, the NHL is refusing to admit that they’re having issues.

“Am I happy that (the Coyotes) are losing money? No. Am I happy there’s a possible return of the Jets? Yes.”

Though no one can say when the NHL’s return to the Prairies will happen, downtown business owners are itching to cash in on the windfall once it does.

“It’s perfect that we’re across from the MTS Centre and how the situation lies for us. We look at ourselves as being the overflow for any home games,” said Jae Pangilinan, director of operations at 4Play. He also predicts home games will be sold out for the first few years of a team’s return.

“I can still remember (the last home game) like it was yesterday. It was a great feeling. To bring back that kind of energy downtown would be just amazing,” he said.

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