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Well, it’s official! As of yesterday, True North Sports & Entertainment Ltd. announced that it had brought back NHL hockey to Winnipeg. And the Manitoba capital couldn’t be more excited about it! 1996 was the last time an NHL game was played in Winnipeg. Following the 1995-96 season, the Winnipeg Jets relocated to Phoenix to become the Coyotes.
Most hockey fans in Canada were repulsed by the idea of a hockey team leaving a country where the sport is considered a national pastime. Add that to the fact that the beloved Jets were now to call a desert home, it felt like a slap in the face to the nation. For years, people surmised that the Coyotes were somehow bound to head back home to Winnipeg.
Even as recently as this year’s NHL playoffs – which have still not concluded as the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins are set to duke it out for the Stanley Cup – there was talk that Phoenix may be losing its team to the city the team once abandoned. It wasn’t very long ago that many thought that this would be the case.
In fact, just a month ago, we blogged about the fact that the strong Canadian loonie may play a big role in having Canada land more teams. So all signs, it seemed, pointed towards the Coyotes playing their last games in Phoenix. But as it was reported yesterday, the Atlanta Thrashers would inevitably fall victim to relocation.
In Canada, of course, this has come as welcome news. Officially, the NHL will move from six to seven Canadian teams with more expected in future seasons. Even for Canadians outside of Winnipeg, this brings great excitement to what is already considered a very exciting sport.
In Calgary, for example, fans are jacked about the renewal of a new rivalry between the hometown Flames and the new version of the Jets. (It should be noted that the new NHL team in Winnipeg has not yet been officially named). Earlier today, Steve MacFarlane of The Calgary Sun commented about the exhilaration taking place in western Canada.
Calgary Flames president Ken King thinks that a new NHL team in Winnipeg is fantastic news. Said King about the NHL’s return to Winnipeg: “(It’s) great for hockey, great for the country, great for the city…We get another prairie rival — another national, prairie rival. We’ve got four teams now that are going to love to hate each other, and that’s great for competition, great fun for fans.”