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True North Sports and Entertainment is extending its partnership with MTS over the naming rights to the downtown Winnipeg arena.

The current contract, which names the arena as the MTS Centre, was set to expire in 2013.

The new deal, announced Thursday, will take the partnership through to 2021 with an option to continue beyond that.

Mark Chipman, chairman of True North, along with business partner David Thomson, announced on May 31 they had purchased the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers and would be moving the team to Winnipeg.

The as-yet-unnamed team will begin play at the MTS Cente in the 2011-12 season.

Financial details of the deal with MTS were not released but it is worth a lot more than when the American Hockey League Manitoba Moose played at the arena, said MTS president Pierre Blouin.

Jim Ludlow, president of True North Sports and Entertainment, said the agreement has set a new benchmark for naming deals in smaller NHL markets.

He also said the name of the new NHL team may not be announced as early as he had suggested.

It won't be before Tuesday's board of governors meeting and may not even be before the June 24 NHL draft.

New NHL chapter

In another development, Chipman delivered a keynote address at the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday.

The crowd gave Chipman two standing ovations, and in return he gave them an insider's view of years of deal making, including his careful pursuit of  NHL commissioner Gary Bettman over several years, to bring the NHL back to the city.

He also revealed how close they were to getting the Phoenix Coyotes, a team that moved from Winnipeg 15 years ago. "We literally came within ten minutes of acquiring that team in May 2010," he said, before the City of Glendale stepped in with a promise to cover the team's losses.

That's when Chipman stepped up his efforts to land the Atlanta Thrashers.

Former Blue Bomber GM Paul Robson Chipman's personality likely sealed the deal. "He has a passion and a commitment and a perserverence and a magical way of doing things," he said.

Chipman said there is something more important to him than getting an NHL team.

"I'm even more proud to call this community and this fantastic city home," he said.

 

With files from The Canadian Press