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Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov #30 of the Phoenix Coyotes celebrates with teammate Martin Hanzal #11 after the Coyotes defeated the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL game at Arena on November 23, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Oilers 5-0. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Christian Petersen/2010 Getty Images

There have been rumours for months that Phoenix Coyotes netminder Ilya Bryzgalov had not yet signed a new contract because of the team's troubled ownership situation, something that was only confirmed last night when he said he wouldn't go to Winnipeg if the team relocated.

After the Coyotes were eliminated in Game 4, the always outspoken netminder talked at length with the Winnipeg Sun about his reservations with the Canadian city.

"You don't want to go to Winnipeg, right?" Bryzgalov said. "Not many people live there, not many Russian people there. Plus it's cold. There's no excitement except the hockey. No park, no entertaining for the families, for the kids. It's going to be tough life for your family.

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"I've been there for just once, maybe twice, when I play in minors. It was really cold. I used the tunnels between the buildings to get to the arena. Because it was minus 40-something. Real cold."

Bryzgalov made similar comments about the weather in Edmonton several years ago while playing with the Anaheim Ducks.

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One of the top netminders in the regular season the past two years, Bryzgalov is set to become the best goaltender available in unrestricted free agency on July 1.

Asked if he would listen to contract offers by potential Winnipeg-based ownership, Bryzgalov was rather blunt.

"Probably not. I better go to somewhere in Russia, KHL, to be honest," he said. "Because KHL is Russian people, it's family, friends. Even as a cold place, I can speak to people in Russian language."

What's curious about all of this is the fact Bryzgalov is from Tolyatti, Russia, a city that is almost exactly the same size and has similar weather to Winnipeg. He has been in North America for 10 years, split between Cincinnati, Anaheim and Phoenix.

This is likely an unfortunate preview of what having an NHL team back in Winnipeg could be like, with some high profile free agents uninterested in signing there.

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Not that that's a new challenge for some smaller market teams.

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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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