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Report: Atlanta Thrashers’ move to Winnipeg is a done deal (Updated with denials)

May 19, 2011, 9:51 PM EDT


The Atlanta Thrashers will indeed move to Winnipeg. That’s the report from Stephen Brunt of The Globe & Mail, although many people are denying it … including NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

If this report is accurate after all, then True North Sports and Entertainment succeeded in their goal of bringing an NHL team back to the former home city of the Winnipeg Jets. Brunt reports that an official announcement will be made on Tuesday and that Bettman will travel to Winnipeg to hold a press conference on that matter. That report also indicates that True North targeted the Thrashers all along, even though the Phoenix Coyotes grabbed most of the focus regarding relocation.

If Brunt’s report is true, there won’t be much suspense about the NHL Board of Governors approving the sale since they already “quietly approved the sale and transfer of the team” months ago.

The relocated Thrashers team would play at the MTS Centre, the current home of the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. It’s unclear if the team’s mascot will change, although rumors indicate that True North would prefer not to use “Thrashers.”

Update: To little surprise, many outlets are reporting denials to this original report. TSN’s Bob McKenzie and Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution are among the respected reporters who said it isn’t official. Jeff Marek spoke with True North, who denied the report.

Another update: There’s at least one person backing up Brunt’s report: Nick Kypreos confirmed that the deal is done.

OK, so we know that the relocation is far from official, but let’s take a quick big picture look at the impact of the move if it does happen.

One second chance comes to an end while another begins …

We’ll get deeper into the bigger issues when (or if) this becomes official, but the interesting thing about this news is that it involves two markets getting second chances to make an NHL team work.

The city of Atlanta already saw one NHL team relocate to another market as the Atlanta Flames became the Calgary Flames in 1980. Even if people blame faulty ownership in both situations, it’s tough to imagine the city getting another NHL franchise anytime soon. Meanwhile, Winnipeg lost the Jets in 1996 when the team left for Phoenix to become the Coyotes during a tough time for the Canadian dollar.

Despite similar end results, the two markets are very different. Atlanta is a large American city that might not take to hockey off the bat while Winnipeg is a Canadian market that hopes to make up for its relatively small market with sheer puck passion. Ultimately, my guess is that the team’s new ownership and the quality of the city’s support will determine if this move will be a success. (If it actually happens, of course.)


Again, we’ll keep an eye on any reports that might refute Brunt’s piece, but the smart money is on this being true. Stay tuned for more news and analysis in the near future.

  1. zestypickles - May 19, 2011 at 10:09 PM

    Atlanta’s just not a hockey city, any way you look at it. When they had the all-star game there a couple years ago that became blatantly obvious. I would love to see another Canadian team. As a fan of the winged wheel from the hockey hotbed of southeastern Michigan, I love seeing knowledgeable fan bases.

    (for my quick dig on the sharks; their fans, generally, haven’t a clue about the game)

  2. sharksfan754 - May 19, 2011 at 10:21 PM

    That’s funny bc here in California I’ve only met one legit wings fan. The others literally didn’t know what icing was. Legit sharks fans would surprise you on their hockey knowledge. Since you said southeast Michigan I assume you’re legit and not the band wagon type like so many I’ve met. I would agree that ATL is a bad hockey market but look what happened to the seals(original bay area hockey team) they failed and now the sharks are at the top of the league for attendance year in and year out.

  3. zestypickles - May 19, 2011 at 10:30 PM

    I said generally. I have no doubts there are legit Sharks fans. Heck there had to have been at least a couple legit thrashers fans. What definitely bothers me though are the a-hole wings fans (kinda like most yankees fans,some people just pick what works.) who give the rest of us a bad name. You pick anybody off the street here and they’ll tell you their opinions on the merits of running an overload PP or an umbrella. Growing up in such a hockey heavy environment makes seeing less knowledgeable markets frustrating.

    • sunking1 - May 20, 2011 at 12:07 PM

      “I love seeing knowledgable fan bases”… “Growing up in such a hockey heavy environment makes seeing less knowledgeable markets frustrating”
      Your such a gasbag zestypickles. I am sooooo over fans from northern teams acting like their areas have a stranglehold on hockey knowledge and if your not from the North then you don’t understand hockey. There are a lot of knowledgeable hockey fans in each hockey market. Do you travel to a lot of Non-Northern NHL arena’s to get your opinion of “less knowledgeable markets”?
      Give it a rest. A true hockey fan should be THRILLED that more areas of the country are being exposed to and gaining NHL fans as opposed to keeping it more of a region defined sport.

      • zestypickles - May 20, 2011 at 4:49 PM

        I said generally. IN GENERAL, a city like Atlanta is not as knowledgeable about hockey than Detroit. And there is no possible way in hell you can argue that. As for growth of the game, I love seeing places like Tampa and San Jose succeeding.

        It will always be a regionally defined sport, no matter how hard Bettman tries to bring a franchise somewhere warm. The reason is in the youth rinks around the cities. If kids grow up playing hockey in Metro Detroit, they’re bound to be big NHL fans. The participation is not like that in other warmer places.

        btw are you from ATL?

      • sunking1 - May 20, 2011 at 11:48 PM

        No Zesty, I am not from ATL. I am from Tampa and have been a season ticket holder for the Bolts since their inception (almost 20 years). Before that I lived in Detroit (they had just started to turn around the franchise when I moved south). Back then, the Wings often played to a half filled arena. Winning changed the dynamic. The Wings became perennial contenders and Detroit then became known as Hockeytown. When they were bad, the fan support was no where near what it has become.
        Did the market get more knowledgeable? No, the team got better and therefore got more fan support. It sounds like you think that defines a “knowledgeable market”. To me it just means everyone supports a winner. When you complain about the less knowledgeable markets, I
        think you are talking about poor fan support.
        Think about the Atlanta’s, Columbuses, Phoenix’s of the world. Very little success, poor team management and consequently, poor records and dwindling fan support. Tampa has often been lumped into that discussion. I have seen a lot of crappy hockey and roughly 5 seasons (out of 18) of competitive hockey (including one awesome Cup ride!!). When we got competitive we were at or near the top in attendance.
        Don’t write off the Non Traditional markets as less knowledgeable. They have lower fan support because of extended periods of lousy teams without the 75 yrs of tradition of the Original Six.
        And remember, here in Florida 90+% of us are from somewhere else (many from the North). The true fans are as knowledgeable as any in NHL cities.
        GO BOLTS! – Beat Boston!

  4. sharksfan754 - May 19, 2011 at 10:51 PM

    Fair enough zesty. I will count you as a legit wings fan número dose. Yea you guys have idiotic bandwagoners, which I kinda envy because you win so often. As a 23 year old I’ve been to over 45 sharks games (2 playoffs) and spent about $8k on them. I even bought hockey equipment and play now both inline and ice.. I can appreciate a legit fan being from the bay I am about loyalty and I’m a warriors fan for basketball. They’ve made the playoffs once that I can remember in my life. Getting back to hockey, I realized we poached McClellan and the wings style. Even though we aren’t an original six we do ( for the most part) know our hockey

    • zestypickles - May 19, 2011 at 11:01 PM

      fair enough. that’s part of the reason it burns so much losing to the sharks, as far as them playing wings hockey. (it’s the right way to play, as opposed to whatever the capitals play)

      and it’s good to hear you play, I spent thousands and thousands of dollars and 17+ years in the game.

  5. govtminion - May 20, 2011 at 9:20 AM

    Any fan base is like that, no matter the location or sport. Core fans who actually know what’s going on, can take an objective look at the game without needing the ‘rah rah you guys suxxorz we be awesome’ crap, and can discuss it rationally whether their squad wins or loses… then dipsticks who haven’t the foggiest clue what’s going other than that they like when the foghorn sounds off and the other team and their fans are the devil- and by the way, who are we playing tonight anyway?

    Some teams get a bad rap for having more of those than others, but those tend to be high-profile teams in the first place- Yankees, Red Wings, Cowboys, Lakers, etc.- it’s the same for smaller-profile teams as well, just less of them overall. The ratio of true fan to retard is pretty much the same everywhere, or so I’ve found.

    For what it’s worth, I live in Capitals country (transplant), and I’ve found a lot more very knowledgeable and sane Caps fans than you’d think. The number of Caps jerseys around town seemed to really pick up when Ovechkin got here, indicating bandwagon fans aplenty, but a lot of people here really do know their hockey rules, history, etc. and can carry on a pretty good conversation- or debate- with this old Bruins fan.

  6. noglorywithoutguts - May 20, 2011 at 1:48 PM

    I feel the NHL made a big mistake by approving the deal that let the Atlanta Spirit Group purchase the team. This is one of the worse owners in pro sports history. The league needs to step up and take responsibility.

    If the NHL really wants to run the league right and make it stronger and grow hockey into the sport we all know it can be, they have to have a better business plan when it comes to ownership and expansion.

    Here is a solution that works for everyone :

    1.The NHL should announce that neither the Thrashers nor the Coyotes will be moved for at least the next 3 years.

    2. The NHL commits to adding 2 Canadian Teams in the next 3 to 5 years.

    3. True North is allowed to buy the Thrashers but they must keep the team in Atlanta and prove they can run a successful NHL team. If in 3 to 5 years they do a good job and produce a winning, profitable team, then they will be rewarded an expansion team and they must sell the Thrashers. If in 3 to 5 years they do a good job and the team is winning but the fans are still not coming, then they are allowed to move the team. If in 3 to 5 years they are doing a poor job, the team will be bought back by the league at the same cost they paid and sold to another potential owner. At anytime they are shown to be intentionally under minding the team, the team will be taken from them by the NHL at half the cost they paid and sold to another potential owner under the same conditions.
    4. This same thing can be done for the Coyotes and all future owners must go through this same procedure.

    This way of doing business will develop strong franchises in non-traditional and failing cities while at the same time build strong, competent ownership. The NHL will be stronger and grow at a slow but solid pace.

    • govtminion - May 20, 2011 at 2:28 PM

      So what reason would True North have to buy the Thrashers if they can’t move them- which, it’s pretty clear, has been their goal all along? There’s no way they’d agree to something like that- which means they drop out of the running. Which means the Thrashers are STILL rudderless, and without any real candidate to take over other than- ugh- the NHL, as happened with the Coyotes. Which means we’re stuck in this same mess.

      I don’t like it, but the fact of the matter is that at this point the team seems to have two options- Winnipeg, or folding. Because no one else has stepped forward with any realistic plan to stay in Atlanta. (Anyone got Jim Ballsille’s phone number handy? Still interested, bucko?)

      As for adding teams in Canada… do we really need MORE expansion? I’d rather see the Thrashers move than expand by yet another couple of teams. Nothing against the last batch, but the talent pool seems a little stretched as it is, and two of the last batch of four have made rumblings about moving in recent years (remember the Predators?). With that in mind, adding teams seems like it makes the problem even worse.

      I don’t mean to rain on your parade, but at the end of the day your solution doesn’t fix much- it makes things even worse, particularly in the long-term.

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