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It’s official: Atlanta Thrashers to be sold to True North Sports and Entertainment, moved to Winnipeg

May 31, 2011, 10:39 AM EDT

Thrashers Future Hockey AP

After 15 years without the NHL, what was once thought of as a lost hope for fans in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada is finally becoming a reality.

True North Sports and Entertainment has called a joint press conference with the NHL for noon Eastern time to announce the agreement between True North and the Atlanta Spirit Group to purchase the Atlanta Thrashers and relocate the team to Winnipeg. True North is spearheaded by Mark Chipman and David Thomson giving the franchise a pair of very wealthy and very financially stable owners, something the Thrashers haven’t had in at least four years.

While this is just an agreement between the two sides, the final approval must be given by the NHL Board of Governors on June 21 when they gather to meet. It’s expected that the sale will be approved quickly and officially putting the moving trucks on their way to central Canada.

Relocation is something we haven’t seen happen in the NHL since the Hartford Whalers moved to North Carolina so you’ll have to forgive everyone if this move opens up a lot of old wounds. The Thrashers move to Winnipeg will likely mean the team won’t be called the “Jets.” There’s much speculation roaming around that the team will continue to carry the moniker of the AHL team that’s been in Winnipeg for the last few years and go by the name Manitoba Moose. We’ll likely find more out about that today. We’ll also be criticizing True North for that should it come to pass.

The team is also likely to stay in the Southeast Division this year and for one season, teams in the Eastern Conference are going to be hazed with at least two trips to Winnipeg. The divisional rivals of the Thrashers will get to experience the joys of mid-winter Winnipeg three times during the year. This also means that Winnipeg will be hitting the road a lot and none of those trips will be like the relatively short one they can look forward to in two seasons that would see them travel six hours south to St. Paul, Minnesota. Instead, Winnipeg will by flying south and east a lot. Perhaps they should name the team the Jets just for irony’s sake.

Then there’s the whole part of this that centers around NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Bettman pledged countless promises to help keep the Coyotes in Arizona, even making sure the NHL protected the team by buying it out of bankruptcy from Jerry Moyes. The Thrashers have been dealing with an ownership boondoggle for the last few years without so much as a pat on the back to support them in their efforts.

After all, Bettman went and found Jeff Vinnik to purchase the Lightning away from the nightmare pair of Len Barrie and Oren Koules as they were busy turning Tampa Bay into a nightmare scenario. He also stuck up for Nashville when Jim Balsillie was trying to work his money magic there and Boots Del Biaggio was scamming his way into a minority ownership with the team as well. As far as we know, none of that kind of help came along for Atlanta and their horrible ownership by Atlanta Spirit Group. For all that Bettman’s done to try and expand the NHL’s grip into new, non-traditional hockey markets his failing in doing something to ensure a team stays in Atlanta will be criticized. Seeing the Thrashers be the team that moves out of the south and into Winnipeg just makes the situation all the more twisted.

How things will differ in Winnipeg from Atlanta, the answer is simple. Fans in Winnipeg have been bottled up for years since seeing the Jets flee town and the support they’ll give to their new team will be unlike anything the Thrashers ever saw in Atlanta. That’s a good thing for them and for the players who have been playing in front of quiet arenas most of their careers in the south. They’re also going to sell a lot of tickets at the MTS Centre. While the building will be the smallest in the league, they’re likely going to sell out everything – something they couldn’t do in Atlanta.

It’s a sad day for any team that relocates because it means there are fans being left behind that loved a team that won’t have it anymore. While we’re happy for those fans in Winnipeg that had their hearts ripped out 15 years ago, we’re sad for those in Atlanta who did love the team and the game. Those fans are the ones getting royally boned over because now they’ll see their former team move somewhere else with a new, rich owner who’ll lavish them with the attention they wished they would’ve gotten in the first place in Atlanta.

  1. polegojim - May 31, 2011 at 10:48 AM

    Congrats to Winnipeg!

    I respect hockey fans everywhere, but not sure which fans in Atlanta were ‘left behind that loved the team’. The whopping 20 or so who showed up to protest the move? That in itself told me everything I needed to hear and averted any ‘sorrow’ for Thrasher fan base. The sports radio stations didn’t show up enmasse, they couldn’t muster more than a few to show up to keep the team in Atlanta?

    Again, congrats to Winnipeg, who has proven by passion that they deserve an NHL team.

    • kingjoe1 - May 31, 2011 at 12:52 PM

      You have no clue about Thrasher fans. Their average attendance has been on par with 20 NHL teams in the league. This past season was down about 1000, but considering all the talk of them moving who would support them?

      As for the radio stations I have to make sure you are aware that there are much more modern media outlets, than radio stations. I suppose there may be some Canadian fans who arent connected to the internet, but down in America, we have it for years.

      If moving a team was based on fan support the Colorado Avalanche and New York Islanders would be moved first.

      • govtminion - May 31, 2011 at 1:27 PM

        Yeah, I can see moving Colorado going well. After all, they only sold out the stadium for over ten years straight, won two Cups… can’t see why anyone would object.

      • kingjoe1 - May 31, 2011 at 5:44 PM

        Ave fans have left in droves since the hockey club has played poorly. Plus, I used them as an example to support that the fans lack of support in Atlanta is not the reason they are moving.
        Govtminion, you might want to hone your reading comprehension skills.

      • polegojim - May 31, 2011 at 6:46 PM

        kingjoe – I understand Thrasher fans well. There was not enough of them. Exaclty the point. I’m fully aware of modern media…how about showing a plethora of Modern Fans?

        Nobody gave them any reason to stay. Not the fans. Not the media. Not the City.

        I guarantee you this – talk about moving the Avs or Islanders, and you’d see mass marches, filled parking lots, and two or three ‘old fashioned’ radio stations who would put on campaigns to keep them in town.

  2. sknut - May 31, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    I feel bad for the workers of the Thrashers, I will assume a lot of them won’t be going to Winnipeg and that is the real losers here along with the hard core fans.

    Bettman better hopes it works out better this time and that they did their research and the owners are in it for the long haul. I hope it does work out.

    There is going to be some long/interesting road trips for Winnipeg this year, I would guess they will just write this year off and start fresh in two years. I wonder when the schedule comes out, I will be curious to see how it works out and wonder if those teams in the east will be doing Minnesota/Winnipeg back to backs.

  3. tommytd - May 31, 2011 at 11:14 AM

    Gary Bettman should go…I think the game could use a change of leadership. He doesn’t seem to make too many moves that make sense. His latest disaster is developing a policy to protect players from headshots.

  4. whatagreatfootballmind - May 31, 2011 at 11:53 AM

    There will be no realignment for the 2011-12 season. Winnipeg will play this season in the southeast division. The NHL wants to wait to see what happens with the Phoenix situation and the CBA that expires after this season. When realignment does happen, it may not be the 6 5 team divisions. If it does, I suspect Minnesota goes to the central, Nashville top southeast, and Winnipeg to northwest. Minnesota has been working on Bettman to get them into the central and Bettmas has all but promised that sooner rather than later.

    • sknut - May 31, 2011 at 1:48 PM

      I understand that but what if Phoenix leaves and goes to KC, I can’t remember off the top of my head other possible destinations, would they stay in the same division that wouldn’t really take care of any issues. In the long run though Minny needs to be in the Central and out of the northwest and I think that will happen.

      • whatagreatfootballmind - May 31, 2011 at 3:43 PM

        FRONT RUNNERS

        I think Kansas City is the American front the runner far and wide for the next team. Possibly the Coyotes whenever that headache is resolved.

        The Canadian front runner has gotta be Quebec. Like Winnipeg they have the itch to get another team back, and they are to my knowledge (insert joke) is a bigger city and Winnipeg.

        NEXT TIER

        Hamilton for some reason is in the mix, however I don’t know why. My guess is that it would cost them a lot to relocate. Winnipeg just paid the NHL 60 million to relocate, but is Hamilton in Toronto’s territory? If it is you have to add another X million in addtion to the 60 million NHL fee.

        LONG SHOTS

        Seattle. Nobody has ever brought them up as a possibility. They have a vunue in Key Arena they can play in while a new NHL arena is built. Has no basketball competition and no competition from the end of the NFL season to beginning of the MLB season.

        San Antonio could play in AT&T Center and would give the Dallas Stars an in-state rival.

        Portland. Has only 1 professional team in that market. They are able to play in the Rose Garden and I believe they sell a decent amount of tickets for the preseason NHL games they host.

        Las Vegas. NHL will never place a team in Vegas with all the gambling.

        Hartford. Bring back the Whale! However they might be in Boston’s and or either New York’s NHL Territory. But we can dream

  5. SmackSaw - May 31, 2011 at 12:39 PM

    Carolina back to Hartford, Phoenix to Quebec, Nashville to Hamilton

    • nhlbruins90 - May 31, 2011 at 2:46 PM

      Did you miss the news that Nash made the playoffs this year? Did quite well in fact. And Carolina, doing just fine. These two are the model for small-market, non-traditional NHL franchises. Neither are having trouble selling tickets.

      Hamilton? Really? Why not Yellowknife, or Moose Jaw?

      • govtminion - May 31, 2011 at 3:26 PM

        Yellowknife! GENIUS! Can’t wait to see traffic jams on the ice road! :D

        Kidding aside, can someone please indulge this ignorant American and explain the fetish with moving an NHL team to Hamilton? I keep hearing it described as either a large suburb of Toronto, or as the Baltimore to Toronto’s Washington D.C.- big city, just very close by. Are either of these really correct? And is there really room for an NHL team to muscle in on Maple Leafs (and Senators, I suppose) territory?

        No sarcasm intended in that (well, okay, except that first line), I honestly want to understand this and I just don’t know the situation all that well apparently.

      • SmackSaw - May 31, 2011 at 4:28 PM

        I think all teams in the American south should move or contract. If the area doesn’t have ice in the winter, they don’t get a hockey team, with the one exception of Los Angeles. Florida, Tampa, Anaheim should all pack their bags. Seattle, Portland and Moose Jaw should have those teams forced upon them.

      • sasksleddog - May 31, 2011 at 4:50 PM

        An ignorant Bruins fan. I have to deal with one of those every day (he’s my kid brother).

        For you, and for govtminion here are some Hamilton facts.
        Population (metro) – 692,000 about 2,000 less than Winnipeg making it the 9th largest city in Canada. It’s about a 40 mile drive from Downtown Toronto to Downtown Hamilton (and if traffic gets backed up it can feel like hours). It’s about 69 miles to the HSBC Arena in Buffalo.

        Facility – Copps Coliseum Hockey capacity 17,383 which is 2000 larger than MTS Centre in Winnipeg.

        In terms of getting a team govtminion hit the nail on the head (but got one of the city’s wrong) when he said that any team there would be muscling in on territory. The city has the misfortune to be caught in the territories of both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Buffalo Sabers. Neither franchise wants a team in Hamilton because both believe that it would affect their attendance. Thing is that for fans who would go to Buffalo, increased border security makes it a lengthier process to get in and out, and to be honest people in Hamilton don’t feel an affinity for the Sabers, and haven’t since Tim Horton died. For fans who would go to Toronto, well from personal experience, the 401 at night with heavy traffic can be a nightmare. The financial base exists to support a team in Hamilton and region without harming either the Leafs or the Sabers.

  6. jeffp12 - May 31, 2011 at 2:48 PM

    Winnipeg Thrashers Will Hold Fan Vote For New Name; Jets Not an Option. http://tinyurl.com/42shawh

    • whatagreatfootballmind - May 31, 2011 at 3:28 PM

      I’d find something more credible than something called Lumpy Junk. But that’s just me.

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