John Paddock, from Oak Lake, and currently the assistant general manager for the Philadelphia Flyers. (FILE PHOTO)
Souris native Andy Murray, was assistant coach of the Winnipeg Jets. (FILE PHOTO)
John Paddock may now be the Philadelphia Flyers' assistant general manager, but the Oak River product loves the idea of Winnipeg getting an NHL franchise.
"We think it's a great thing for the city, the province, even the country," said Paddock, the first Manitoban to be the head coach of the Winnipeg Jets.
"I think the time is right and it should work out for them. The times are so much different than they were 15 years ago when there was no arena that could generate anything beyond the ticket prices of the seats."
Andy Murray, a Souris product who was an assistant coach with the Jets, said Winnipeg's new ownership group, headed by True North Sports and Entertainment owner Mark Chipman and Toronto billionaire David Thomson did everything right to set the stage for the NHL's return.
"Mark Chipman is a smart businessman and I can't think he and his partners would get involved unless there's a chance for success," Murray said.
Murray likes the young talent the Thrashers bring to the Manitoba capital. However, there will be "you ain't in Georgia anymore" moments for Thrashers players who were able to live in anonymity in Atlanta.
"The first thing players will experience is a packed house, which they never had in Atlanta," Murray said. "To be honest, they had passionate fans in Atlanta, but only about 6,000 to 7,000.
"The players will be recognized everywhere they go and they will realize pretty quickly how important the game is here. They'll realize what a privilege that is, but with that comes responsibility. They'll need to perform because Manitobans will hold them more accountable."
Paddock said the new team should have no trouble attracting players into a passionate hockey city like Winnipeg.
"Dale Hawerchuk said the most exciting part of his career was playing nine years in Winnipeg," Paddock said.
Brandonite Matt Calvert, a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets, looks forward to an opportunity to suit up against the new Winnipeg team.
"It will be great because the closest game to home for me was in Minnesota," Calvert said. "I think there will be great fans there and that will help a lot. It will be new and exciting. Some won't like the cold, but when it comes to hockey, they'll enjoy that."
Darryl Wolski, a Brandonite working for The Sports Corporation, a firm that represents professional athletes, said Manitobans will answer the call for the stated goal of 13,000 season ticket sales.
"I think people will embrace this, not for the short term, but for a long time," Wolski said. "I've already had 25-30 messages from people wanting to go in on season ticket purchases. People will support this team whether they are from Brandon or Winnipeg."
At the Manitoba legislature, politicians debated, unofficially, who deserved credit for the return of NHL hockey.
"We are a government that invests in our communities, invests in public assets and in building the foundations for economic development in Manitoba," Brandon East New Democratic Party MLA Drew Caldwell said. "In this ... we were opposed by the Opposition. We put the puck in the net."
Progressive Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen said Caldwell is mistaken, and that the credit for the return of the NHL belongs to the Chipman family and David Thomson, the new owners of the Winnipeg franchise.
"I supported the MTS Centre wholeheartedly," McFadyen said.
"Any Manitoba politician that tries to take credit for this, whether they be in opposition or government, may as well take credit for the sunshine."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 1, 2011 A3