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WINNIPEG LOSES BATTLE TO KEEP THE JETS
Published May 4, 1995
"Winnipeg's 23-year love affair with major league hockey ended yesterday in tears and recriminations," writes John Douglas in this morning's WINNIPEG FREE PRESS. John Loewen, Chair of the Manitoba Entertainment Complex, which had sought to buy the team and build a new arena, told a news conference, "This is going to hurt for a while but the facts are the NHL is not prepared to make hockey a viable sport in small-market cities like Winnipeg." Winnipeg Mayor Susan Thompson: "We have reached the point where we are not prepared to pay the price, the NHL price." Jets Owner Barry Shenkarow said he has given two interested buyers 48 hours to put together offers to move the Jets to Minneapolis. Sources put the price at $70M (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 5/4). Shenkarow: "I've been trying for 15 years to keep this team in Winnipeg, to let the politicians know that without a new arena the team couldn't continue to be profitable. Nobody listened" (Scott Taylor, WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 5/4). DEAL-BREAKER: Analyzing MEC's last-ditch efforts, John Douglas calls the NHL's requirement that the new owners hold the team for seven years the "deal-breaker" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 5/4). In a statement, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman praised the Jets' "loyal" fans, but said: "We have exhausted every avenue in the hopes that the Jets could remain, but it appears that no one in the private sector believes, after extensive analysis, that a team in Winnipeg is economically viable" (NHL). Manitoba Premier Gary Filmon seemed to agree: "If nobody in the private sector is willing to take the risk of maintaining it here even after we in the public sector are willing to virtually turn over a new facility debt free to them, you have to ask how viable is it for anybody to operate a team in the NHL in this market?" (David Roberts, Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/4). COMMENTARY: In Toronto, Gare Joyce blames the Jets' failure on the original decision to bring WHA cities into the NHL. Joyce calls the team's move "not unexpected, just overdue" and "an adjustment in a business 16 years after an expedient decision" (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 5/4). WHAT NEXT? Winnipeg City Councilor Bill Clement said there will be a meeting between the Winnipeg Enterprises Corp., operators of Winnipeg Arena, and the IHL. IHL VP Communications Tim Bryant admitted that there have been "conversations" about the city, but not to the point where any finances were discussed. Bryant said that the fee for the next wave of IHL expansion will likely jump to $8M (Supleve & Lyons, WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 5/4).