Calgary Flames principal owner Murray Edwards is not one for publicity or interviews. But speaking at a Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. investors gathering Tuesday, Edwards let his feelings be known on one of hockey's hottest topics - the NHL's possible return to Winnipeg.
A member of the NHL board of governors and Canadian Natural's vice-chairman, Edwards gave his support to the Manitoba capital, which lost the Winnipeg Jets to Phoenix in 1996.
While it looked for a time that the Phoenix Coyotes would return, they will stay in the Arizona desert at least one more season after a late financial commitment by the City of Glendale, making the Atlanta Thrashers the organization most likely to move. The Thrashers ownership group, Atlanta Spirit LLC, has been unable to find a local buyer and is currently talking with Winnipeg-based True North Sports & Entertainment Ltd.
"If, at the end of the day, there is ultimately no local ownership [in Atlanta] then the league would have to look to move franchises," Edwards said. "And I think today there is probably no market in North America that is more open and more supportive of an NHL franchise than would be Winnipeg. So if we can't keep the franchises existing in one of the current markets, I think Winnipeg would be probably a prime place to move to."
Asked if Winnipeg's return would be opposed by any of the existing Canadian franchises, Edwards replied: "Canadian teams are supportive of having franchises where they are successful. But if there are opportunities to move franchises, Canadian owners would be supportive of seeing additional teams in Winnipeg or elsewhere."
Edwards noted how the NHL worked hard to keep teams in Ottawa, Buffalo and Tampa. "We spent a lot of time working with potential ownership groups in Phoenix and with current ownership in Atlanta, trying to make them prosper in those markets."