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The Globe and Mail

Winnipeg waiting to host NHL All-Star weekend

Winnipeg Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec (31) during the third period at the MTS Centre. Winnipeg wins 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-US PRESSWIRE


It took Ottawa 20 years – 16 of those years actively seeking it – to land the All-Star Game.

How long will Winnipeg have to wait?

The re- born Jets do actually have a player here in Ottawa. He just doesn't have a name or number on his back and he most assuredly isn't Dustin Byfuglien, the towering defenceman who was named to the team but had to skip it due to injury.

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That player is Governor Mark Chipman, the man who brought the Jets back to life when the Atlanta Thrashers went down the tubes and landed in Manitoba.

Following an NHL board of governors meeting at the Chateau Laurier, Chipman was one of a handful of team owners who spoke with the media. He said the Jets were not disappointed not to be represented on the ice as "We have an all-star, he's just not able to play."

As for hosting an event such as the All-Star Weekend, Chipman said it is far too early in the game for such thoughts. Just landing a franchise back after the original Jets left for Phoenix in 1996 was such a momentous occasion for the ownership group that "it still hasn't completely sunk in."

Ottawa's first hitch was a proper facility, one they solved in 1996 when the Palladium (now Scotiabank Place) opened in Kanata. The next hitch was a large enough facility – the league insisted on 200,000 square feet – to hold such events as the incredibly popular Fan Fair. That issue was settled this past year when, finally, the brand-new Ottawa Convention Centre opened its doors.

Winnipeg and Ottawa are not much different in size. Both have the required hotel rooms, both a modern rink and both would have convention facilities to turn to for off-ice activity. Winnipeg will also soon have an attraction the equal of Parliament Hill and the Rideau Canal when the Canadian Museum of Human Rights opens on the re-developed Forks in downtown Winnipeg.

At some point, the Jets will be chasing to put on the All-Star Game, if not the Heritage Classic or a future draft.

"I have no doubt our community would support any one of these events," says Chipman.

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And given the response Winnipeg gave to a simply exhibition game back in September, let alone the first regular games of the season in early October, no one should have any doubts.

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