Last February, when Joe Aiello and I started talking about all the hockey rumors on 92-CITI-FM, it was intriguing to watch the response. The local mainstream media instantly crapped all over us.
Joe and I were expressing our interest in all the chatter that had been emanating from MTS Centre where more than one employee talked openly about the changes that were planned for the building, the employees and the future of hockey in Winnipeg.
At first, it was thought that there was an opportunity for True North Sports and Entertainment to acquire the Atlanta Thrashers, but as we looked and listened more closely, it was apparent there was an even greater chance, at the time, that the Phoenix Coyotes might move north. The rumors did not stop circulating until mid-May and by then, it was clear that while most MTS Centre employees were convinced something was happening, by the middle of May, all the talk had died.
We thought we were right. We thought Winnipeg hockey fans and MTS employees were right, but unless True North ever admitted it piblicly, no one would know for sure.
Then, this past week, Mark Chipman, president of True North, admitted during a speech to the Chamber of Commerce that he and his partner, David Thomson were only minutes away from acquiring the Coyotes last May.
In fact, according to Chipman, if the City of Glendale had not committed to a guarantee of $25 million toward any monies lost by the Coyotes operation during the 2010-11 season, the Phoenix hockey franchise would have been heading back to Winnipeg on May 10, 2010.
“We literally came within 10 minutes of acquiring (the Coyotes) in May 2010 when the City of Glendale met a 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time deadline to wire the funds necessary to pay for the league’s losses for the (2010-11) season,” he told the Commerce gathering at the Fairmont.
“We left somewhat disappointed, but uplifted by the fact that the league had taken us so seriously and, as a consequence, had indicated it would just be a matter of time before we would actually acquire a team.”
That turned out to be true, too.
Although it really doesn’t matter now whether or not True North was close to acquiring a team 13 months ago, it’s nice to know that the time Joe and I spent chasing all the talk, wasn’t in vain. The fact is, True North was close to bringing the NHL back to Winnipeg, despite the protests of the major media. And, in the end, our first instinct, the Atlanta Thrashers, turned out to be correct. At least, it became correct on May 31, 2011.
I now feel I can look back on what I wrote at www.citifm.ca and rest secure in the knowledge that we were right — and so too, were the hockey fans of Winnipeg.