WINNIPEG – Winnipeg’s MTS Centre already meets most NHL standards and only minor changes are needed, deputy league commissioner Bill Daly said Thursday.
“I think this building is pretty much in compliance with our standards as it is,” he said, adding that there is a need to ensure the boards and glass in the 15,015-seat arena are in line with new NHL regulations that other league arenas also must now meet for next season.
“Seemless glass in our buildings does cause more injuries than an acrylic system so we’re moving to acrylic.”
The building, which has been home to the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League, also needs more camera positions. Some changes have already started, such as enlarging the press box and making way for expanded broadcast coverage.
Daly was in town with a team of league officials who deal with such things as broadcasting, hockey operations, communications and corporate marketing.
Even though the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers won’t be final until the June 21 board of governors’ meeting, that appears to be a formality and True North Sports and Entertainment, which owns the team and the arena, already has the backing of the executive committee.
“I have no reason to believe that it won’t be unanimous,” Daly said of the vote.
While he stopped short of describing it as a blueprint for how to win acceptance within the NHL, he did lay out the path True North chairman Mark Chipman took and the long dialogue he has had with the league about bringing an team back to Winnipeg, which lost the Jets in 1996.
“Mark’s been very respectful of the process,” said Daly. “He’s been very respectful not to, for lack of a better term, tamper with franchises in other cities you know, because the league does have a commitment to try to do whatever we can to keep franchises healthy in the cities (where) they are.
“He’s been patient throughout the process and that patience paid off.”
As for other cities eager to win NHL franchises, Daly said Quebec’s dialogue over building a new arena is really a local matter.
“If there’s a new building in Quebec City I suppose it puts it in a position Winnipeg’s been in since 2004 when it built this,” he said.
And while Hamilton has Copps Coliseum that seats around 17,000 for hockey, Daly said it would have to be upgraded or a new facility built if that city were ever to get an NHL franchise, and he quickly added that he didn’t want anyone to think that was likely at the moment.
“I don’t want to talk in those terms because that would suggest that somehow Hamilton is being considered for the next franchise and that would be inaccurate.”
And as for the name of the new Winnipeg team, Daly said he knows some of the options being considered but nothing has been decided.
“Mark still has a lot of good options in that regard.”