Selkirk happy to have NHL back

Hayley Brigg

For a city that practically lives and breathes local hockey, it's no surprise that the people of Selkirk are ecstatic that the National Hockey League will be making it's return to Manitoba once again.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman himself flew into Winnipeg last week to announce in a press conference held the MTS Centre that True North Sports and Entertainment had indeed purchased the Atlanta Thrashers, and were planning on moving the team to Winnipeg for the 2011-2012 season.

"I'm very happy that it's back - I think it's great for the whole province, not just Winnipeg," said Selkirk Mayor Larry Johannson.

A condition of the Thrashers deal was for True North Sports to secure the sale of at least 13,000 season tickets for next season.

More than 7,000 season ticket packages were snatched up in a pre-sale for Manitoba Moose ticket holders, while the rest were sold out in minutes when tickets went on sale to the public on Saturday.

Long-time Selkirk Jr. B. Fisherman head coach Al Hares was on seven-week vacation in Australia, and says he had a lot to catch up on when he returned to Manitoba last week.

"I didn't know what was really going on, the papers over there weren't carrying the news from here," said Hares. "I came back to Winnipeg and Portage and Main was going crazy."

Hares is confident that the city will be able to support the NHL this time around, pointing out that both Winnipeg as well as the rest of Manitoba is passionate about hockey.

But with the AHL out and the NHL in, some may question what effect having the big leagues back in Manitoba might do to local hockey markets, but Hares believes it will be nothing but positive.

"I don't think it will have much of an effect, if anything I think it'll create a little more interest in the game and show the kids there are lots of opportunities," said Hares. "I think it'll open their eyes a bit now that they can see it up close."

Selkirk Steelers head coach Ryan Smith agrees with Hares, pointing out the team will 'create a buzz' around Winnipeg and Manitoba.

"It's great that the young kids will be able to go and see all the stars of the NHL playing here in Winnipeg," said Smith. "The Selkirk Steelers have pretty loyal following here and I think that our fans will continue to support us regardless if there is a large team here."

However, Smith adds that while it's great that everyone is excited to once again host an NHL team, it's important that Winnipeg and the rest of the province not forget the Manitoba Moose.

"They kept pro hockey alive while the Jets were gone, and that's the hockey that for nearly the past 15 years that kids around here have grown up watching," said Smith. "They should be remembered for a long time as well, we can't forget what they gave to Manitoba."

Now that it looks like bringing the Thrashers to Winnipeg is just about as close to being official as can be, the only detail left to discuss is what name the new team bare. Whether or not the team will revert back to the Winnipeg Jets or something else has been a hot debate ever since rumours began flying that True North was planning on purchasing the Thrashers.

"When they first started talking about the team coming back, I thought that calling them the Winnipeg Jets would be the best idea, but the more I think about how this really does impact all of Manitoba, I think it should be named for the entire province," said Johannson. "I haven't really heard any good ones with 'Manitoba' in them - just ones like the 'Manitoba Flood'".

Hares says he would be happy with any name, but was adamant that one stay off-limits.

"Just as long as they don't call themselves the Fisherman. But if they do, they'll have to deal with me for the rights to the logo," laughed Hares.

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