Last week it was announced that True North Sports and Entertainment (TNSE) would not be required to have affordable housing in their new True North Square until two city councillors forced an amendment to the grant that the city was giving to TNSE. TNSE has been given exemptions from the city and the province on their downtown property from day one. They are not Winnipeg or Manitoba’s friend.
From the first game the newly acquired Winnipeg Jets played in the then MTS Centre “true north” was louder than the rest of O Canada as a tribute to the ownership group that bought the Atlanta Thrashers from the Atlanta Spirt and moved them to Winnipeg. It has never changed.
The relationship between Jets fans and TNSE is one of the weirdest ones in sports. When I asked some Habs fans if there was a weirder relationship between owner and fans, the answer was “the Bell Centre sells Molson products”. Yes, this hero-worshipping that Jets fans have with TSNE is weird and odd and needs to be dealt with.
TNSE did not bring the Jets back to make Winnipeggers happy; they brought them back to make money. The NHL allowed the sale and the move of the Thrashers to TNSE because it would make them more money. Hockey is a business above all and TNSE knew what they were doing when they moved the Thrashers to Winnipeg.
Even if the Jets have boosted Winnipeg’s and Manitoba’s economy, the city and the province should not be giving tax breaks to TNSE to keep them here, nor should they bend over backwards to help a multi-million dollar organization fund the Jets. The Jets are not a necessity to the city, they are something that is accessible to few in person.
If Winnipeg made a commitment to improving transit to move fans to and from games or to improving the walkability of downtown for all so that there are less cars down there on game nights, that would be one thing. Downtown Winnipeg and Winnipeg Transit both need improvements and using the Jets as the impetus to start to changes would have been a smart move because those are long-standing issues that they city has to address.
The relationship between Winnipeg and the Jets is more emotional than it is with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers because the Jets left and came back. Instead of treating them like any other business, they are treating them like the special child that needs help. (I will not comment on the Bombers stadium deal which is bad as well). Cities and provinces should recognize the fact that sports teams are rich peoples play things and should not be funded by the public to any degree.
TNSE is not operating for the public, they are operating to make a profit. They are adulated by fans for bringing the team back. After seven years, fans should cheer for the team, not the business that bought the Thrashers and moved them. TNSE is a business and it is time that we treated them as such.