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Why Atlanta moving to Winnipeg would become a dream for the City of Glendale

May 12, 2011, 9:15 PM EDT

Dustin Byfuglien Getty Images

With the excitement of tonight’s Game 7 in San Jose you’d imagine that most hockey fans would be locked in on talking about that and worrying about the action on the ice. That’s not always the case, however, when the talk of relocation when it applies to the City of Winnipeg in discussion about either the Phoenix Coyotes or now the Atlanta Thrashers.

Today’s talk from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly about how he couldn’t guarantee the future of the Thrashers in Atlanta all while speculation picked up surrounding the possibility of David Thomson’s True North group from Winnipeg purchasing the Thrashers and moving them north. Atlanta government officials saying they wouldn’t fight if the team wanted to leave town doesn’t help matters either especially given how nervous fans are in the south about keeping the team.

With the Coyotes now locked into another season in Glendale thanks to the City of Glendale picking up the check for another $25 million in losses, fans in Winnipeg eager to see the NHL return there are getting anxious, and for good reason. The NHL is clearly keeping True North and Winnipeg on standby should something, anything, come apart in Atlanta and if that move does happen this summer it might be the best news possible for fans in Arizona and the City of Glendale. It’s not that Coyotes fans should be rooting for the Thrashers to be bought and moved out of town, it’s just that they might not have to worry about relocation for a long time if it does.

Should True North get the OK to buy the Atlanta Thrashers, all of a sudden interest in the Coyotes as far as a local interest versus a Canadian one disappears. The NHL and the City of Glendale would then, likely, have all the time they would like to work out a deal with Matthew Hulsizer or Jerry Reinsdorf if you buy into rumors of his possible return to the situation. Both sides could then do their jousting with the Goldwater Institute without the pressure of an imminent deadline of being sold off to an outside interest looking to relocate the franchise. Unless a new arena is built in Quebec City or a buyer materializes looking to buy and move the team to another American city (take your pick of Portland, Las Vegas, or Kansas City) there’s no one looking to push the issue in Glendale.

Without that outside pressure, the NHL and Hulsizer are free to work things out at their speed. The catch here is that it would also reduce the pressure on the City of Glendale to cover the special kind of ransom for losses they’ve now decided to pay two years running to keep the team in place.

After all, if there’s no one looking to move the team out of town, how can the NHL ask the city to cover losses for them while it’s on the league to find a buyer for the franchise? The NHL would go from the saviors of the franchise to the villains soaking the city for money for the team. That’s not good for business when the NHL wants to hang on to Phoenix as a market.

Obviously the NHL wants its cake and to eat it too by getting a new owner for the team and one that’s committed to keeping them in Arena. However, if the “nuclear option” of having True North buy the team and moving them back to Winnipeg is eliminated by them buying Atlanta, the NHL will finally start truly feeling the stress of what it means to own a financial loser of a team.

After all, if you’re putting 29 owners on the hook for anywhere from $30 million-$40 million in losses per season, you’re going to have some contentious Board of Governors meetings. It’s not an ideal situation for the NHL by any means, but for the fans in Glendale and elsewhere in Arizona that have been looking for a peaceful offseason, seeing another team suffer the fate they’ve been looking to avoid for the last two years might be the only way to make it happen.

  1. djlybarger2 - May 12, 2011 at 11:18 PM

    How do you think the NHL would realign the divisions with a move like this? A western conference team would have to move to the east as a result so what would make the most sense?

    1. Move Columbus directly to the SE
    2. Move Columbus to another division in the East, which would require another eastern team to switch divisions (ex. Buffalo or Boston to the Atlantic)
    3. Move Nashville directly to the SE
    4. Go back to the old system of two divisions in each conference, give the top 2 in each division home ice, and not worry about the imbalance (ex. in 1989-90 the East had 11 teams and the West had 10)
    5. Get rid of the divisions and just play it out (this is basically how the standings look in the newspapers after Jan. 1st anyways)

    I would personally vote for 3 or 4

  2. emperorzero - May 13, 2011 at 1:18 AM

    Nashvill to SE seems to make the most sense.

  3. Grandview Sniveller - May 13, 2011 at 2:08 AM

    This is how the divisions should be set:

    Los Angeles
    San Jose

    St Louis



    New Jersey
    NY Islanders
    NY Rangers

    Tampa Bay

    Wouldn’t hurt to have new line ups in every division, they make way more cultural and geographical sense this way, and allow for some new and different rivalries to develop, after many years of the same old ones.

    While I’m at it, I would like to see tournaments within the regular schedule, just to make the dog days of January / February more interesting. Divide teams into five groups of six teams each based on the decade of their origin, and when games in the regular schedule involve two expansion sisters, count the points toward a round-robin-like tournament. Doesn’t matter too much if there is imbalance by playing some teams twice and others six times, it’s just for fun, maybe trophies at the end. The in-schedule tournaments would be between:

    The Original Six
    NY Rangers,

    The Sweet 60s
    St Louis,
    Dallas (originally Minnesota),
    Los Angeles,
    Minnesota (I know they were added much later, but Minnesota had a team in the 60s)

    70s Sisters
    Calgary (was Atlanta, added in 70s),
    New Jersey (was Kansas, added in 70s),
    NY Islanders

    WHA 80s
    Edmonton (arguably a 1979 team, but 1980 was their first finished season),
    Winnipeg (used to be Atlanta, but did have Jets, added with WHA teams in 79-80),
    Colorado (used to be Quebec, also 79-80),
    Phoenix (was Winnipeg, added in 79-80),
    Carolina (was Hartford, added 79-80)
    Columbus (added in 2000, but an orphan for any other group…)

    San Jose
    Tampa Bay

    I know as a Vancouver fan I always pay attention the odd times we play Buffalo, our expansion cousins. I always marvel at the powerhouses that came out of the WHA teams (8 cups). And of course the 60s teams seem almost as traditional now as original six and I regard Philly and Pittsbugh and the others as old teams.

    Interestingly, 60 cups have been won by the original six teams, 6 cups by the 60s teams, 7 by 70s teams, 8 by the 80s teams….and 2 by the 90s teams.

    • t9tookey - May 13, 2011 at 5:45 AM

      Pittsburgh would never be moved to the West, especially into a division Colorado. Washington and Philly are Pittsburgh’s biggest rivals. If Atlanta moves to Winnipeg, it looks like Detroit gets moved to the East into the NorthEast Division, Buffalo or Boston gets moved to the Atlantic Division and PIttsburgh gets sent to the SouthEast Division.

      I think Nashville would be a better choice as they could be moved straight to the SouthEast Division but Detroit wants back in the Eastern Conference to cut down on their travel and I’m sure the Wings will get what they want.

      • jpelle82 - May 13, 2011 at 11:31 AM

        as a pens fan i dont consider washington a rival, new jersey and philly but definitely not washington. the media created a rivalry between crosby and ovechkin and the caps fans are just mad crosby has a cup. pittsburgh isnt going anywhere, the atlantic division is set perfectly…nashville should move over to the SE.

      • wingsfan11 - May 13, 2011 at 1:38 PM

        I wish that Detroit would move East. However, the Wings bring in too many fans to games in the Western Conference for the owners to allow that to happen.

      • emperor83 - May 13, 2011 at 6:12 PM

        I gotta say, while Buffalo, geographically is more of a fit for the Atlantic division than the Northeast, Buffalo/Boston and Buffalo/Toronto are two of the top 5 (not THE top 2, but still) division rivalries in the Eastern Conference. I give the other 3 to Pittsburgh/Philadelphia, NY/NY and Montreal/Boston.

    • florida76 - May 13, 2011 at 2:44 PM

      Grandview, you’ve put together some interesting divisions, especially the last set. I would like to point out some interesting facts on Cup wins. As you pointed out, 60 have been won by the original six, but the lions share of those wins were before 1967-68. Incredibly, the original six have only managed 19 Cups since the first wave of expansion in 1967-68. In fact, Toronto, Chicago, Boston, and the Rangers have only won five Cups total since that date, and that only ties the total by Pittsburgh/Philadelphia. When you consider the original six had a roughly 40 year head start, and the early expansion teams were starting from scratch, it’s amazing the original six didn’t win many more Cups, especially from the late 60s-80s.

      Put another way, relative newbies like Tampa Bay and Anaheim have as many Cup wins individually as the Rangers, Leafs, and Chicago. That’s unbelievable.

      And even the Wings, who have been the second best post 67-68 original six team with four Cups, are just one Cup better than Pittsburgh.

      Bottom line, we can see the vast majority of the success of the original six occurred before 1967-68, but they’ve had no where near the expected impact post 1967-68.

      • Grandview Sniveller - Jun 2, 2011 at 4:21 PM

        That’s a really interesting point, Florida76. I know the Montreal Canadiens had some sort of preferential rights to draftees growing up in the province of Quebec up until the WHA Nordiques came into the NHL in 1980 and challenged that. Did the other original six also have special access to draftees? It makes your point all the more head scratching–not only a big head start on organization and depth, but special rights, and still they failed to win their share of cups. Complacency? Old ways of thinking? I know Gretz changed the on-ice approach (by being the first to play the Russian no lanes, always rotating, always moving style–kind of like Elvis was the first acceptable black musician) but maybe those WHA teams also brought new styles of management, organization and drafting too. The original six really stopped winning the cups in earnest in 1980 (only 8 in those 30 years).

    • bigtull - May 14, 2011 at 3:36 AM

      Move Tampa Bay to Milwaukee, Florida to Cleveland or Cinncinatti while your moving franchises.

    • nolesshabitual - May 14, 2011 at 1:36 PM

      Really? splitting up the Bruins Canadiens rivalry? that’s your solution?!?! That may work for you out on the west coast, but it’s not in the interest of the league or the rabid fans in both cities.

  4. emperor83 - May 13, 2011 at 8:46 AM

    Who owns the Jets name, the city of Winnipeg or the Coyotes organization?

    • cshearing - May 13, 2011 at 9:02 AM

      The NHL owns the rights.

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