Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Complete Transcript from True North Sports and Entertainment's Press Conference (Transcript)

Here is a complete transcript of this morning's press conference from True North Sports and Entertainment on the purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers and the move to Winnipeg.

Make the jump to see the transcript that is provided by NHL Media Services...


Here is a video with a stick tap to Glen Tinley...




True North Sports and Entertainment News Conference Transcript
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Winnipeg, Manitoba (MTS Centre)
 


An interview with:

SCOTT BROWN
MARK CHIPMAN
GREG SELINGER
COMMISSIONER GARY BETTMAN
JIM LUDLOW
DAVID THOMSON


SCOTT BROWN: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Scott Brown. I am the director of corporate communications for True North Sports & Entertainment. I'd like to thank those of you here today for joining us. I would also like to thank those of you tuning in live across the city, province and country on either television, radio or streaming live on the Internet.

Today's announcement is one that many have been waiting for with great anticipation for the last 16 years. I think the last 12 days have demonstrated that.
True North Sports & Entertainment has long maintained that our goal as an organization is to bring the best entertainment the world has to offer to this province, whether it be the best in the music industry or the highest caliber of athlete in the world of sports.

Since MTS Centre opened in November of 2004, the citizens of this province and this city have made it one of the most popular facilities in Canada, North America, and in the world. We hope today that we are offering them another reason to make it so.

The organization is thankful for the public's support. We have invested in this community in the past, and now once again we plan to do so for the future. But at the same time we are asking the community to invest in that future along with us.

Today marks the most significant announcement thus far as it relates to the City of Winnipeg, the province of Manitoba, True North Sports & Entertainment, and the National Hockey League. To make that announcement, I'd like to call upon the chairman of the board of True North Sports & Entertainment, Mr. Mark Chipman.

MARK CHIPMAN: Thanks, Scott. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for joining us.

In the spring of 1995, I was very fortunate to become closely involved with our community's efforts to save our NHL team. I came away from that experience with a deep sense of disappointment, but also the realization that our lack of success was not anyone's fault. Rather, after 17 years, the economics of our city and the NHL were no longer compatible.

While the loss of the Winnipeg Jets in many ways had a profound effect on the psyche of our city and province, I believe it also stiffened our resolve to press on and jointly move our community forward. One of the ways our family joined in that effort was through the investment in what was then the very best next level of hockey available in North America. With a commitment to run the Manitoba Moose hockey club to the greatest extent possible as though we were still in the NHL.

With the support of a fantastic group of sponsors and Moose fans, we were able to quickly gain an understanding of the business of professional hockey and turn our attention to the dream of building a new facility in downtown Winnipeg.
In 1999, we took the first steps towards making that dream a reality, and in 2001, we entered into what would become an incredible partnership with David Thomson who embraced the vision we had for downtown Winnipeg. We were joined in that effort by a number of like-minded Manitobans, and with the support of the city, the province, and our Federal Government, we opened the doors of the MTS Centre in November of 2004.

At the same time, the National Hockey League was engaged in an exhaustive effort to correct the underlying economics of its business model. A few years prior, I had met and began to establish a relationship with Gary Bettman through our involvement in the merger of the American and International Hockey Leagues. Although I suspect he may not recall it, I remember telling him at that time that I expected our city would one day again take membership in the NHL. I continued to make that point at every opportunity and was always given a thoughtful response.

Finally, in 2007, we were asked to make a presentation to the executive committee of the Board of Governors on how and why we felt an NHL team could succeed in Manitoba. With the assistance of a number of other Canadian NHL teams, we developed a very thorough understanding of the modern economics of the game.  The pursuit of that knowledge has never stopped.
Throughout that process, our relationship with Gary and his team at the NHL continued to develop and I believe a high level of trust was established.

Two other very significant series of developments occurred over that same 15-year continuum. Firstly our community continued to invest in itself and as a result has been able to move forward on many levels, notably against the same economic headwinds that brought the rest of the world to a standstill. Secondly, during that time, our organization grew up and it matured, and in my humble opinion has operated as an NHL standard.

In fact, over the years, off our Moose staff, our trainers, coaches and players, including several that will compete for this year's Stanley Cup, may have been called up to pursue their NHL dreams. While it's always been gratifying to see that occur, it's always caused us to ponder what it might feel like if one day our organization might receive that same call.

Today, on behalf of my family, our partner David Thomson, our entire organization, I am excited beyond words to announce our purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers. In a sense, I guess you could say True North, our city and province has received the call we've long since been waiting for.

Now, as Mr. Bettman will explain in a moment, this transaction is subject to the approval of the NHL Board of Governors on June 21st. Amongst other things, the league will carefully scrutinize our community's capacity to be a stable and productive member of the league.

Later this morning you will also hear from our president Jim Ludlow who will explain in detail a process that will ensure our ability to satisfy the league's interest.

Allow me to say that I personally have no reservation in this community's ability to do so.

Before you hear from Mr. Bettman, allow me to take this opportunity to thank several individuals who have played a vital role in the extraordinary effort that was necessary to bring us to this day.

As I hope you can appreciate, transactions of this nature are very complicated and require a team of highly skilled and passionate professionals that are apparently willing to work right through the night.

In that regard, we've been blessed to work with Carmel Peter, Rob Lee and Brian Leonard from Aiken's, together with Lawrence Zucker and Len Pace of Symington and Brad Peacock from Megill-Stephenson.  As well, we've had the benefit of the skill and knowledge of our own Jim Ludlow, John Olfert, Norva Riddell, and Dorian Morphy, and Scott Brown from True North.  I would especially like to acknowledge the incredible contribution of Mr. Terry Morris of Allen & Company, without whom frankly I'm not sure I'd standing here today.

You will also be hearing from Premier Greg Selinger in a few moments. He has enthusiastically supported the return of the National Hockey League since we first presented the idea to him well over a year ago and has played a vital role in bringing this possibility to a reality here today.

I'd also like to acknowledge Mr. Bruce Levenson of the Atlanta Spirit for the honorable and professional way in which they engaged in this transaction. Finally I wish to thank Mr. Gary Bettman and the entire staff at the National Hockey League with whom we have worked with over the past several years for their guidance, trust, and the respect that they have shown us throughout the entire process.

I need to also acknowledge my family who have been, frankly, incredible. My partner David Thomson, who has been absolutely steadfast throughout what at times was a very turbulent process.

With that, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce the commissioner of the National Hockey League, Mr. Gary Bettman. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Thank you, Mark. Welcome, everyone this morning. It is nice to be back in Winnipeg after all these years.

I want to start out by thanking Mark Chipman and David Thomson for their patience, their professionalism, their perseverance and persistence. Mark has been pursuing the NHL, as you heard, for a number of years quietly and obviously quite effectively.

No doubt that this pursuit reflects the passion of our fans in Winnipeg. And while Mark has been working behind the scenes with us over the years, staying in touch, working the process, and keeping the lines of communication open, at the same time the owners of the Atlanta Thrashers have been looking to sell their club.

Over this period of time, no real local purchaser emerged. And ultimately Atlanta's ownership, which has made it clear that they want out, reached outside the Atlanta market.

As is obvious by the fact that we're here today, True North and Atlanta Spirit early this morning reached an agreement that would bring the NHL back to this city. When I say 'early this morning,' I won't be telling tales out of school to tell you that we were, with others, on a conference call at 4:30 this morning Eastern Time, and it wasn't done yet.

This transaction and the club's relocation are, as Mark said, subject to the approval of the NHL Board of Governors, and it is our expectation that this matter will be on the June 21st meeting agenda. As we have said repeatedly, we don't like to move franchises. But sometimes, even if it's been 14 years since the last time we moved the franchise, we simply have no choice, as was the case back in '96 when the Jets left Winnipeg. At that time, and for a variety of reasons we don't have to go into today, no one at that time simply wanted to own the Jets any longer in Winnipeg.

To our fans in Atlanta, we are not happy about leaving Atlanta. Please be assured it was never about whether Winnipeg is better than Atlanta. The decision to come to Winnipeg was made only after Atlanta's ownership made the decision that they were going to sell even if it meant the club was going to leave Atlanta.

So with that decision made, it is clear that times have changed for Winnipeg as an NHL market, and this is a wonderful time to add a club to Canada. Hockey in Canada has never been stronger. The NHL has a different economic system that allows the so-called smaller markets to compete. The NHL is coming off another season of record revenues in both Canada and the United States, and our prospects remain extraordinarily bright.

This venue, the MTS Centre, will be a fine, fine home for an NHL club, and there is the strength of the prospective ownership group.

We now also, and perhaps this is the most poignant point, we get to be back in a place we wish we hadn't left in 1996.

With this background, the best way for our fans in Winnipeg to celebrate the opportunity is to buy season tickets. Selling season tickets, selling 13,000 season tickets, is the best message to send to the NHL Board of Governors before they meet on June 21st. To be candid, this isn't going to work very well unless this building is sold out every night.

There is no doubt that NHL hockey has tremendous support here, and we know we've had tremendous fans in Atlanta. The fans in both cities have been through a lot the past several weeks, and hopefully everyone is now in a position to move forward.

I certainly will be happy to take questions later. I'm going to turn things over to Jim Ludlow. But, again, thank you all for being here today.

SCOTT BROWN:  Thank you, Mr. Commissioner.

Actually, we're going to thank one of the parties first that without their support, as Mark mentioned, this would not be possible. That most notably would be our provincial government. To offer a message on behalf of the province, I would like to call on the Premier of Manitoba, Greg Selinger.

GREG SELINGER: Well, NHL, welcome home here in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It's great to have you back here. It's great to have you back here where you belong. We've missed you and will make it work forever now that you're back.

There's been a lot of talk over the last 15 years about the NHL returning. But as we all know, what makes a great hockey player just isn't talk, it's how you perform on the ice. That's what Mark Chipman and his team at True North have done. They've buckled down and performed and got it done and brought the team back to Winnipeg.

Wayne Gretzky once said, You shouldn't go where the puck is, you should skate to where the puck is going to be. That's what Mark and his team have done. They've skated to where the NHL is going to be, right back here in Manitoba, right back here in Winnipeg. We're so proud of this achievement and excited to have them back here in Manitoba. It's a fantastic day for all of us.  We can be thrilled by what we've accomplished here.

But I was thinking about this when I remembered we retired Mike Keane's sweater just this winter. Mike Keane, when he was being talked about by Mark, said he showed dedication, perseverance and community commitment. As I was thinking about that, those are the qualities that Mark and his team have shown: dedication, perseverance and commitment to the community. That's paying off for us today.

So where do we go from now? We know that 15 years ago things were different in Manitoba. Today we walk with confidence. Today we walk with a feeling that anything's possible, and that the NHL team is a symbol of that great optimism that we have for the future of the province.

Downtown Winnipeg is much different. With the cooperation of all three levels of government, we now have the MTS Centre, and it has proven to be a great success. There were naysayers, people that were saying it couldn't be done, it shouldn't be done, and it can't be done. We've proved them all wrong. It's been a fantastic success on every level, as a performing arts center, as a hockey center, as an asset that has pumped excitement and other redevelopment into the downtown.

So now the second step has just been completed, the buying of the team. We all heard about how difficult that was, how hard it was to bring that transaction to fruition. I want to thank all the people behind the scenes that don't get normally recognized for all the work you've done. It's always very complex to bring these transactions to fruition and everyone has worked exceedingly well together.

So now it's up to the rest of us to step up and show that we can support this team by buying season tickets. I know I'll be doing that. I know a lot of you will be doing that in this room. We'll all come together as a community. We'll meet that 13,000 target for season tickets. We'll have a great success in doing that. You know what, the NHL's going to be here, it's going to be here for good. I mean that in every sense of the world.

Thank you very much and congratulations.

SCOTT BROWN: Thank you, Mr. Premier. Now we'll get down to the nitty-gritty of today's announcement. Today is indeed a day to celebrate for Manitoba hockey fans. It is also the beginning of a short period of focused commitment from these same individuals. To explain, I'd like to call upon the president of True North Sports & Entertainment, Mr. Jim Ludlow.

JIM LUDLOW: Thank you, Scott. Didn't expect it to be as emotional and surreal a day as it has turned out to be. When Mark was speaking, I was a little choked. It is a very, very special day for all of us.

I do want to welcome on behalf of True North Sports & Entertainment all of you here today. For many of you in sports media, this building has become a second home to all of you over the past few years. Perhaps our media friends from Toronto today, this may be a first of many visits to come. Welcome to Winnipeg's new home of NHL hockey.

A decade ago, True North had a simple vision of developing a state-of-the-art sports and entertainment center in downtown Winnipeg. In November of 2004, this vision became a reality as True North opened the MTS Centre as a dramatic, new sports and entertainment landmark in downtown Winnipeg. Today the MTS Centre is renowned for its success in diversity of entertainment, attendance records, management and operating expertise and consistently busy entertainment calendar.

Since 2004, over 6.4 million people have enjoyed over 1100 different events at the MTS Centre, including world class performances by Keith Urban, Elton John, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Celine Dion, Coldplay and The Eagles to name just a few. The MTS Centre has been a leading ranked center in North America since the day it opened. It was the Canadian Major Facility of the Year in 2009, and while consistently in the top five, has risen as high as third in Canada and 19th in the world in Pollstar Magazine's top 100 list.

Our Manitoba Moose have been the benchmark franchise in the American Hockey League since coming into the league in 2001 in terms of revenue and revenue growth, league-leading attendance, management innovation and overall passionate fan support. Meeting and exceeding expectations, a dynamic culture, an ethic of basic hard work and discipline, the strength of corporate organization and community, a collective desire to move ahead, the skill and expertise of all of our staff, all taken together have provided True North with a confident base from which to move forward.

As Mark mentioned earlier, we have carefully and quietly monitored developments in the National Hockey League over the past number of years and always understood, among ourselves, that if the right opportunity arose and at the right time we would consider executing on this next logical step, not only in terms of expansion of our business footprint, but in the expansion and progression of the collective mindset of Manitobans living in a healthy, forward-moving community.

With that in mind, we are thrilled today not only to have made the announcement regarding the purchase of the Thrashers, but are very excited to formally kickoff our 'Drive for 13,000' season tickets campaign for the coming 2011/2012 season.
As mentioned, the purchase of the Thrashers will be subject to the NHL Board of Governors' approval on June 21. Among other things, board approval will consider the level of support generated in Winnipeg during a season ticket campaign. The 'Drive for 13,000' is this necessary season ticket sales campaign advanced in the Manitoba marketplace by True North for the successful sale of 13,000 season tickets prior to this board meeting.

The success of the 'Drive for 13,000' will ensure the long-term viability of an NHL team in Winnipeg and will allow our fans to showcase their support by participating in a season ticket drive that will secure NHL hockey in Manitoba for years to come.

The 'Drive for 13,000' will start tomorrow, Wednesday, June 1st, at 1 p.m., and will include a three-day priority presale available only to Moose season ticketholders and mini pack holders and our corporate partners. This will end Friday, June 3rd, at 10 p.m. NHL season tickets for the 2011/2012 season at the MTS Centre will officially go on sale to the general public this Saturday, June 4th, at 12 noon.

As of 11 a.m. this morning, our new www.Driveto13.com website, interactive and informative as it is, is now live. 'Drive to 13' will be every fan's Roadmap to purchasing season tickets for the upcoming NHL season at the MTS Centre. Truly interactive and designed for ease and efficiency, season ticket transactions will originate online and only through this website. Fans are directed to log onto www.driveto13.com, using all of the helpful prompts to navigate through the website leading finally to TicketMaster.ca to complete this purchase transaction.

For NHL hockey in Winnipeg, the upper and lower bowls of the MTS Centre have been rescaled in seven price categories now known as P1 to P7. It necessitates the balancing of a number of market-specific variables. In arriving at what we believe to be the seven ideal price categories in the MTS Centre required a careful review of a number of key variables including our market size and capacity, our building size, team operating costs, Canadian market comparables, and our history with existing hockey customers over our years of operations in the AHL and at NHL exhibition games.

The results of this exercise have been considered and reconsidered. The numbers, the market comparables all have been scrubbed and rescrubbed. We think you will be pleased with the results in what will become True North's pricing for regular season NHL hockey at the MTS Centre. A premium P1 ticket in the MTS Centre will cost $129. The entry level P7 NHL ticket is just $39. The full P1 to P7 ticket price ranges for NHL hockey at the MTS Centre are referred to in the table on the screen.

For as little as $39 per ticket, fans can regularly see the top hockey talent in the world. Superstars like Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, and former Manitoba Moose Ryan Kesler, skating at the MTS Centre this fall.
On a full-season ticket basis, these prices per ticket are then rolled up into a 41 regular season and four pre-season game package. The full season ticket package prices per season range from a low in P7 of $1,755 to $5,805 in P1.

The table on the screen shows the full ticket packages.

Half season, 22- and 23-game ticket packages, are also available in P6 and P7 starting at prices as low as $858. The average ticket price for NHL hockey in Winnipeg's MTS Centre is about $80. The average price of a ticket in the lower bowl is just over $100. In the upper bowl, which includes P5, P6, and P7, representing over 45% of the 'Drive for 13,000' inventory, the average cost of a ticket is less than $55 in the upper bowl.

In terms of context, we've also considered how MTS Centre ticket prices might stack up among other relevant Canadian cities, for example Ottawa, Edmonton, and Calgary. The ticket package price ranges in those markets are as follows: in Ottawa, the range is $29 to $141. In Edmonton, the range is $30 to $176. In Calgary, the range is $34 to $180.

Average ticket prices at the MTS Centre are clearly comparable to what other Canadian markets are charging their fans. At the same time, those of you who have experienced a full house of Manitoba Moose hockey know, the intimacy in our event bowl is second to none. As part of the 'Drive for 13,000' ticket pricing exercise, we've also address what we believe are important value-added features for customers in managing their purchase decision: affordability, cash flow, seat certainty, and price certainty.

In response to these features, True North will offer all ticket purchasers convenient and affordable monthly payment plans which will provide them with an effective tool to participate as NHL fans at the MTS Centre.
In the case of a P7 full season ticket package, for example, the monthly payment is just over $146. In the case of the top ticket in the house, the monthly payment would be a little over $525 per month. We think these financing alternatives make a bunch of sense as available options to our fans.

Even easier are the half-season ticket packages in P6 and P7. In both of those sections, the monthly cost ranges from $70 to just over $100 per month.
We believe NHL hockey in Winnipeg is well-priced. We are confident of how this ticket pricing will work within our broader financial model. We also feel it is important to provide certainty in this equation for the fans and True North, certainty of seat location year over year, certainty of ticket pricing for fans, and certainty of annual revenue for True North.

All season ticket packages purchased by fans in all price categories will include multi-year rights and benefits based on the table referred to on the screen which provides an outline of the term of commitment associated with each price category. Price points P1 and P2 are have five-year terms. P3, P4 and P5 have five-year terms. P6 and P7 we have three-year terms available.

The result in this case is that fans will have certainty of their seat location over the term. True North will guarantee that ticket prices will not rise more than 3% per year during the term. In exchange, True North can rely on committed annual revenue for tickets over the terms outlined, the proverbial quid pro quo. Taken together, this recipe will provide for successful sustainable hockey in the MTS Centre.

Once logged on to www.driveto13.com, fans will find lots of helpful information including seating charts, ticket prices, seating maps, FAQs, top 10 things you need to know about the 'Drive for 13,000', and among other things a daily ticket drive meter. Navigating through the website will eventually get all purchasers to a place where there's a link to TicketMaster.ca, the place where the actual transaction will take place.

At that point fans will be asked to place a deposit on a seat in a particular price category. That price will guarantee fans to select a seat in that price category during a selection process which will occur after the successful completion of the drive.

When it is your turn to select seats, you will be contacted directly and individually by ticket sales and service representatives from True North to begin this process. This process not only assures one-on-one contact with our fans, it also provides an ability for our fans to select seats personally. We estimate this process will take 8 to 10 weeks to complete post the drive.

The deposit will be paid only once during the term. Based on the price categories selected deposits on seats will range from $500 in P7 to $1,000 in P1. In the case of a half-season selection, available in P6 and P7, the deposit amount is as low as $250. Deposit proceeds will be held by True North and returned to the purchaser at the end of the term or credited towards a further deposit in the event the term is extended.

As there is a presale starting tomorrow we expect demand to be strong through the presale and very brisk during the on sale. We would encourage everyone to log on in advance to familiarize themselves with all of the exciting True North MTS Centre NHL information on our driveto13.com website. Transactions as I said must be completed online. Phone orders cannot be processed during the 'Drive for 13,000'. With the successful drive, the availability of individual tickets will be limited. Your best chance for securing NHL tickets at the MTS Centre will be to purchase one of these ticket packages.

Please remember, log on to www.driveto13.com. The presale starts Wednesday, June 1, at 1 p.m. The puck drops at noon on Saturday, June 4th for general public on sale.

These are terrific times to be living in Winnipeg. Today, as I said earlier, is a beautiful day. Thank you very much.

SCOTT BROWN: I think we'll now take questions from the floor.

Q.        Mr. Thomson, you've been a partner with True North for some time. What about the Chipman family, True North, and the City of Winnipeg has made you want to make this kind of investment in a city that you don't live in?

DAVID THOMSON: That's a very good question.
I have a deep attachment to this city, to the province, and to the country. I go back longer than I'd like to remember, to my Hudson's Bay Company days. Probably every nook and cranny in this country, the rural communities, there's a heartfelt sense of community in Winnipeg and in Manitoba. I've always felt inspired by the leadership, by the ambitions. There's been more than a tinge of regret as with all Winnipegers and Manitobans that the Jets left.

In working through the development of MTS, forging a rapport and relationship with Mark and his executives, we feel very, very strongly about one another's values and about the possibilities that lie ahead to actually move something forward that's distinctive, that makes a difference in people's lives. So I am committed to this community as I am to this country. It's about time.

Q.        Mark, everybody wants to know, has a name been chosen? Where we going with it?

MARK CHIPMAN: I have to tell you, I anticipated that question (smiling). The name has not been chosen. Gary was quite accurate when he said we worked right until the very early hours of this morning to conclude this transaction. We have been singularly focused on that effort for many weeks now.
While we know that subject is of great interest to the community, we have not fully engaged it yet. It is obviously one of the first orders of business that we'll turn ourselves to now. We'll do so very thoughtfully. I can assure you and everyone of that. We'll hopefully have some news on that in the very near future.

Q.        Mr. Bettman, we're told there was an absolute explosion at the Forks when this announcement went through. Describe what it's like for you to be able to bring that type of passion back to a place like Winnipeg.

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I think we've been clear from the outset that we don't like moving franchises. We know how important a franchise is to a community, the emotional and financial investment that people make in NHL hockey and supporting their favorite franchise.

We were extraordinarily unhappy when we left in '96. We had no choice. That's why with the celebration here there's obviously regret about what's happening in Atlanta.

But to be able to come back to a place that we know loves NHL hockey, to be able to do it in a city that's changed with a Collective Bargaining Agreement that's leveled the playing surface, with this building, these were factors that didn't exist in '96.

So to be able to come back to, if you will, right a wrong, that's always an extraordinary thing. And the sentiments that David Thomson expressed in terms of the community's commitment to come together behind something is something we value tremendously. The opportunity to come back here, bring a franchise back to Canada, which we know is the heart and soul of our game, is vitally important to us, and it's something that we're proud to do when the circumstances presented themselves.

Q.        What is your expectation of what will happen June 21st if that 13,000 mark isn't met?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: I never like to engage in speculation. Certainly there's been enough speculation over the last few weeks to satisfy anyone's lifetime of speculation (smiling).

But to the point, I never like to be presumptuous as to what the Board will do. It would be difficult for me to contemplate, with all of the extraordinary effort that David and Mark have gone to the investment that they're making, the outcry from this community since 1996 I'm not going to even contemplate for a second that 13,000 aren't sold. It doesn't work, as I said, if this building isn't full every night.

Q.        Mark, being born and bred here in Manitoba, when the team left, a part of the soul left this province. As you make this announcement today, do you think you have returned that, by the way?

MARK CHIPMAN: Wow. I hope that that's how people feel about this. Such a broad range of emotion, frankly, trying to reconcile today. Obviously we've been long since very aware of how important participating in this league is to our community. We were front and center when it left. As I mentioned in my remarks, it was a very, very difficult and disappointing process.

But I would say this. As important as this may be, I think what is equally if not more important is the resiliency that this community showed over the past 15 years. That's why we've gotten another opportunity. We didn't wallow in self-pity. A lot of people involved in that effort to keep the team here mobilized very quickly on to other causes. I think there's a lot of evidence of their work and more coming from the museum that we're anticipating, new libraries, incredible capital campaigns at our universities. That emanated from that group that gave it their best shot in the first place.

So whether or not we're restoring the soul of this community, I don't know if I can answer that. I think this is a great day for our community. I think our community has shown itself to be an incredible one even in the vacuum that we've lived in in terms of NHL hockey for the past 15 years.

Q.        Mr. Bettman, how much do you think this will raise hopes in cities like Qu├ębec City that wants to have their team back in the next few years?

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: The reason I'm hesitating to answer the question is because you all know, particularly those of you who cover us on a daily basis, I get extremely unhappy and cranky with raising expectations when they shouldn't be raised. If you go back a month ago, all of the reports that said there was a done deal to move the Coyotes and that was never the case had a disruptive influence on the locker room for that team as the team was starting the playoffs. It also, in addition to creating uncertainty for the players and their families of the Coyotes, it raised expectations here at a time where they shouldn't have been raised yet.

We believe that this situation, that is Atlanta moving, is unique to Atlanta. We've gone 14 years without moving a franchise. Other leagues have moved lots of franchises in that time. We will continue to resist moving franchises because, as I said, it's not about which is better, it's about where we are and trying to preserve the community and the community's interest and the community's identity and love affair with its franchise.

So other communities shouldn't be reading anything into what's happening here into any other situation, either with respect to speculation that a franchise may move or that another city is going to get one. That would be a mistake. It would be inaccurate. So people shouldn't get their hopes up because we're going to continue to handle things as we did.

Going back to the last question to Mark, I wanted to add one thing. In all of my dealings with Mark over the years, and we're talking lots and lots of years, his focus to me has always been about Winnipeg and about Manitoba. That's what I always took from him as to what this pursuit was all about almost single-minded in that focus.

Q.        Mark, when you took over the Moose and brought them here, you spent a lot of time selling people on the minor league hockey. You didn't like talking about the National Hockey League level very much. When did it switch for you that you thought maybe the National Hockey League would work again in Winnipeg?

MARK CHIPMAN: Well, I think clearly when the NHL came out of the lockout season of 2004, there was a very, very different economic model, prior to which we really couldn't even contemplate a return of the league.

I think I mentioned it to Gary in 2001, 2002, but I might have been dreaming in Technicolor at that time. When we tried to establish the Moose, it wasn't easy, to be honest with you. We had no idea. I'm not embarrassed to say how difficult it was going to be to step into the void that was left. It was difficult not just for myself but for the people that came to work for us that had to endure that every day, when you're trying to sell a product that we were very proud of.

But I guess to answer your question, when the league corrected itself in a very, very significant way, and we had created some friendships with other Canadian teams that very quickly embraced the idea of helping us understand the new game, that's when we started doing the math. We said, We think this is very realistic. I guess that's when it really began, was probably just coming out of 2004.

Q.        Mr. Bettman, can you explain to us from the NHL's perspective why this season ticket campaign is so important.

COMMISSIONER BETTMAN: Well, I think it probably is better to come from the people who are investing in the club.

But the fact is, there is a sense of excitement, a sense of anticipation. There had been a sense of loss. I don't think anybody has ever doubted that NHL hockey has great fans in Winnipeg. But unless the fans are prepared to support the franchise, it isn't going to work.

So there are two issues going on here. One, I think it would be a good idea to tell the Board of Governors as quickly as possible that there's nothing to worry about here, this is going to be great. And, two, the economics of running a franchise, particularly in this building, in this market, require the support having that predictability will give you.

MARK CHIPMAN: If I could just add to that. I don't think it ought to be perceived today that this 13,000 season ticket level is being imposed on us by the National Hockey League. Singularly it's an objective that we jointly feel is necessary and is achievable.

When we first started talking to Gary about the reality of this, that conversation came up very quickly. We're going to need to be able to demonstrate the community's desire to invest alongside us. I don't mind saying this is a very significant investment for our family and for David. So we are of the same mind. We really are. This is not being imposed on us, but we do understand it will be looked to very, very carefully. I understand that and we accept that.

Q.        With the draft just over three and a half weeks away, Rick Dudley signed a contract extension. Where do things stand from a hockey operations standpoint and who is going to be in charge from a management and coaching standpoint?

MARK CHIPMAN: Thank you for that question. A very good one. We have a lot of work to do. I've known Rick for 15 years. We go way back to my first years in the International Hockey League. I have very high regard for Rick. Haven't spoken to him yet. Expect to do so.

You're correct, we have three and a half weeks until we select seventh overall. I would tell you Craig Heisinger that is responsible for a lot of the talent playing for the Canucks tomorrow night, he will have a significant role in our Hockey Operations. Exactly which title, which role, we've been kicking around for a couple weeks as this became real.

We owe it to Rick Dudley and the rest of that organization to get with them as quickly as possible. They're people with families and expectations. We'll be turning ourselves to that right away.

SCOTT BROWN: All right, ladies and gentlemen. That will do it for the formal Q&A. We're excited about this next step in Manitoba's hockey history. We hope the province is equally as excited as we are, and we hope to be here again in a few short days talking about the successful completion of 13,000 and the successful return of the NHL to Winnipeg.

More Later...

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

1 comment:

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