Eric Belanger Hates Winnipeg
While talk of possibly moving the Phoenix Coyotes to Winnipeg is getting most hockey fans excited, especially those in Winnipeg, Coyotes forward Eric Belanger is among the minority that are not thrilled with the idea.
While this is just the latest turn in the ongoing saga surrounding his team, Belanger isn't about to ignore the issue and hope it blows over.
He knows that the Coyotes' days in the dessert are likely numbered, but Belanger, who rarely minces words, doesn't see Winnipeg as a dream destination.
“The guys have been talking about it a bit more every day, and the one sure thing is that we want to play in Phoenix and not in Winnipeg,” said Belanger. “Personally, and I won't name any names, but I've chatted with guys that have played (in Winnipeg) and don't want to go back. There are reasons why hockey wasn't working in Winnipeg at the end, I don't see how that would have changed.”
Belanger, who has also played for the Los Angeles Kings, Carolina Hurricanes, Atlanta Thrashers, Minnesota Wild and Washington Capitals says he has nothing against the Winnipeg hockey fans that are desperate to see a team back in their city.
“There are good fans there, but Winnipeg is still Winnipeg,” Belanger said. “In January and February, I doubt that my family would follow me out there for a holiday.”
Belanger added that while the preference of he and his teammates is to stay in Arizona, Quebec would be the front-runner over Winnipeg if they had to choose.
“It's different in Quebec,” Belanger said. “They are the same fans, but the economy seems to really be rolling along. The guys that I talk to loved playing in Quebec. You can't go to practice in shorts and t-shirts like I did this morning, but Quebec is attractive. At least there are things to do there!”
Added Belanger: “In the mind of the players, it's Quebec before Winnipeg, for sure.”
While he wants to see the Coyotes stay in Phoenix, Belanger doesn't hide the fact that the empty stands at the arena bother players.
“We can't blame our fans,” Belanger said. “It's been two years that they have been wondering if the club would be moving, and they will come back when it is settled.
“When these markets are having trouble, it's less money in our pockets. But do we want to go to Winnipeg for an extra 1 or 2%? I'm not so sure.”