For the first time in the history of the rink, the home to the NHL Winnipeg Jets wonâ€™t carry the name of a telecommunications giant. While Bell Canada announced on June 15 that it had agreed to a multi-year partnership with the Jets to continue as the arenaâ€™s official telecommunications provider, True North Sports & Entertainment, owners of the Jets, revealed the same day that the rink would no longer be known as Bell MTS Place. Going forward, the building will be taking on a new life as the Canada Life Centre.
In the recently-completed Stanley Cup playoffs North Division finals, the Jets faced the Montreal Canadiens. Winnipeg was heavily favoured at all of the best Canadian sportsbooks, but Jets backers couldâ€™ve used some of that life insurance. They were snuffed out in the minimum four games by the Habs.
The name change will officially take place on Canada Day, July 1. The 10-year sponsorship agreement includes substantial branding, media, hospitality and community assets for Canada Life. Home to both the NHL Jets and the American Hockey Leagueâ€™s Manitoba Moose, Winnipegâ€™s top farm club, the arena typically hosts more than 140 events each year and is consistently recognized as one of the premier sports and entertainment venues in North America.
The 440,000-square-foot building can house 15,000 fans at a hockey game and more than 16,000 at concerts.
When the MTS Centre opened in 2004, the AHL Moose were the major tenants of the facility. The Jets moved into the building in 2011 after being relocated from Atlanta.
While the name Canada Life Centre is effective July 1, 2021, it will take several weeks to replace the current signage in place throughout the facility. Canada Life estimates that all of the signage will be changed over by September.
While Bell gained its name on the building by purchasing MTS, Canada Life also recently underwent a similar acquisition. Great West Life and London Life were usurped in a merger and are now all part of the Canada Life brand.
Mark Chipman, executive chairman of True North Sports & Entertainment, indicated that the opportunity for this partnership arose just as the Bell MTS agreement was about to come to an end.
“Iâ€™ve known Paul and the folks at Canada Life for a long, long time,” Chipman told the Winnipeg Free Press. â€œCertainly, this was something we were both interested in seeing happen. But more than that, I think the most unique and powerful part of this is that it is a national company that is still very local.”
True North Sports & Entertainment is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
“It couldn’t be a better time to embark upon the next 10 years of our journey than with a partner like Canada Life, that shares the same community commitment and passion for our great city and country,” Chipman said.
Chipman noted that with the hopefulness growing that the COVID-19 pandemic is coming under control, that the company has initiated the process of tentatively booking concerts and other events for the fall.
“However, it all depends on the public health orders in place at the time,” Chipman said.
Paul Mahon, President and Chief Executive Officer, Great-West Lifeco, Canada Life’s parent company, noted that they were OK with that prospect and are focusing on a long future of working with True North.
“Weâ€™re in this for a big decade of collaboration,” Mahon said. “Even if that means itâ€™ll be a slow start to events because of the pandemic, obviously thatâ€™s disappointing to the fans and people wanting to come back to stands, but weâ€™re just excited we get to be there for this journey as a team.”
Brief History With Bell
Known as the MTS Centre when it opened in 2004 at a cost of $133.5 million, the arena was renamed the Bell MTS Place on May 30, 2017, following Bell Canadaâ€™s acquisition of Manitoba Telecommunication Services.
While Bell will see its name removed from the Jets arena, the companyâ€™s logo will continue to adorn the Jets’ helmets for the next five seasons as part of the telecommunications deal.
Bell still has its name on one significant NHL arena. In 2002, Bell Canada paid $100 million US for the naming rights to the home of the Montreal Canadiens, formerly known as the Molson Centre. A 20-year pact, that deal will also be coming to completion soon. Montrealâ€™s arena will be called the Bell Centre through 2022.
Winnipeg Jets by TheAthletic is licensed under CC BY 3.0