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Winnipeg Jets owner drops in at Saturday practice

Winnipeg Jets left wing Andrew Ladd (left) and Jets part-owner David Thomson smile as they pose with the rest of the Jets during a team photo prior to a practice in Winnipeg, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011. The Jets will play the Montreal Canadiens in their inaugural game on Sunday.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS

David Thomson, the Toronto billionaire and co-owner of the Winnipeg Jets, got a rare look at the team he helped to buy today. Thomson was in the stands at the MTS Centre this morning as the club went through about an hour-long practice. He flew into Winnipeg Friday night and got a chance to meet some of the players during a team dinner at the Manitoba Club in downtown Winnipeg.

"It was wonderful to meet the players," Thomson said standing high in the stands. He still doesn't know many of the player's names, but he recalled one Jet telling him that on his previous club he had never met the owner.

Thomson, who also owns the Globe and Mail, will be at Sunday's season opener and hopes to be back in Winnipeg a few times this year. He's even considering buying an apartment here. But he said he leaves the day-to-day management of the team to fellow owner Mark Chipman, a local businessman. Thomson and Chipman co-own True North Sports & Entertainment and they spent nearly a decade trying to lure an NHL team to the city. Thomson has deep personal and business ties to the city and he provided much of the financing, and key parcels of downtown land, that helped build the MTS Centre and acquire the franchise.

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One player who made a point of meeting Thomson Friday night was defenceman Mark Stuart.

"It was cool," Stuart recalled today. When told the Thomson's are worth roughly $20-billion, he said: "It's pretty crazy just to think about that."

So has he ever met a billionaire before? "I don't think I have."

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About the Author
European Correspondent

Paul Waldie has been an award-winning journalist with The Globe and Mail for more than 10 years. He has won three National Newspaper Awards for business coverage and been nominated for a Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism. He has also won a Sports Media Canada award for sports writing and authored a best-selling biography of the McCain family. More

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