Blog Entry

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

Posted on: May 16, 2011 1:25 pm
Edited on: May 16, 2011 11:23 pm
It appears Atlanta is close to losing its second NHL team.

The Thrashers owner Atlanta Spirit are in negotiations on a deal with True North Sports and Entertainment, , The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Chris Vivlamore reports citing a person familiar with the process. The deal would include relocation to Winnipeg, which lost out on the Phoenix Coyotes after Glendale (Ariz.) agreed to pay the NHL as much as $25 million to cover expenses for the 2011-12 season.

Here’s more from Vivlamore:

A deal has not been completed and it is also not known how long the two sides have been negotiating. However, the fact that talks are on-going negotiations could mean the Thrashers would relocate to Manitoba perhaps as soon as next season.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, reach via e-mail, said there was "nothing I'm prepared to say at this point." A True North Sports and Entertainment spokesperson had no comment.

Technically, NHL owners do not have to seek league approval to sell a franchise. However they would have to get permission to negotiate with a party interested in relocation. Once an agreement in principle has been reached, the NHL’s Board of Governors would be asked to judge the acceptability of the new ownership.

Negotiations began after a buyer willing to purchase the Thrashers and keep the team in Atlanta could not be found.

It's been a messy ownership situation for years since a fraction grew within the controlling group. We chronicled some of the attempts to keep the team a few weeks ago. There was also talk that former Braves pitcher Tom Glavine was interested in buying the team. Those fronts have been quiet of late.

This is almost exactly what happened three decades ago. The Flames’ ownership group in financial straits announced in May 1980 that it was headed to Calgary after no ownership group could be found locally.

This stands to be the first NHL franchise to relocate since the Hartford Whalers, who left Connecticut for North Carolina and became the Hurricanes, in 1997.

Since getting a new arena built -- the lack of one was the impetus for the exodus from Winnipeg in 1996 -- the fans in the former NHL city have been dying to get the big leagues back in town. Relocation has been a very popular topic across the league in recent years, with the Coyotes having been rumored to be on the move for a couple of years now, starting with Blackberry owner Jim Balsillie, who was denied in his attempt to move the franchise to Hamilton, Ontario. Southern markets like these two at hand and others with lower attendances have long been the targets for those hoping to get back into more traditional markets.

True North is expected to have to pay as much as a $60 million relocation fee.

But this may not be over. Expect the league to do whatever it can to keep the Thrashers in Atlanta much like it did in Phoenix. The league just signed a 10-year deal with NBC/Comcast worth $2 billion and NBC/Comcast won’t be thrilled to lose a top-10 TV market to Canada.

-- A.J. Perez and Brian Stubits

Since: Nov 3, 2006
Posted on: May 17, 2011 4:34 pm

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

Well, the fact that the Braves have no such infighting issues, and ruled the NL for a decade, and fans STILL wouldn't show up tells me that the fanbase IS the problem.
The fact is the Braves have been run on the cheap since Turner sold them.  The Braves fortunately have a great front office to keep them at least competitive.   Yeah they don't draw well when school is in session and it's a weekday.  But they draw well enough.

It's tiring to see all the blame laid on the fans in Atlanta.  The fact is the ASG just does not WANT a hockey team here, for whatever reason.
And it is becoming clear that Bettman doesn't want to deal with those idiots either.  The NHL would rather walk away (unlike Phoenix) and deal with new ownership in Winnipeg then have to deal with ASG.  Until ASG no longer has the rights to Phiips, or the NHL can go to a new arena in Atlanta the chances of the NHL staying here look pretty slim.

It is not the fans fault.  Why does Atlanta get dissed when 12,000 show up for a bad product when the same thing happened in Boston, Chicago, Washington, and Pittsburgh when they had lousy teams?

Since: Apr 5, 2009
Posted on: May 17, 2011 4:33 pm

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

Yes, Detroit and Chicago always sell out. But you're delusional if you think the Preds rely on those 6 games a year to boost they're attendance. They averaged almost 95% capacity this year. In fact, Detroit didn't sell out all of their games this year, so maybe we should move them too?

Since: Oct 27, 2006
Posted on: May 17, 2011 12:53 pm

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

Well put, sports fans.  The Thrasher owner group may be partly responsible for imploding on the team's chances at being a legitimate hockey town, but the onus is still on the fans to show up.  I've seen the attendance figures from 2003-2007.  That's great, fine and dandy.  At any point when someone receives something new and shiny they pay special attention to it.  It's like this in sports too.  There's even some ass-clown on youtube right now trying to compare the Thrashers attendance to the Jets attendance in their final years to back his story.  Sadly though, it's 2011 and those figures mean nothing.  If the Thrashers had as poor attendance from 2003-2007 as they do now, I'm pretty sure the team would have left for greener pastures before 2011.  There was a fellow who wrote about the Braves and their lack of attendance too.  The Hawks had fans come out to their playoff games sure, but what about the 82 games during the regular season?  Of course I'm not speaking of every sports fan in Atlanta.  I well realize that there are die-hard Braves, Hawks and Thrashers fans out there.  It's just unfortunate that there aren't more people like you who do adore your city's teams.  And, I'm sure much of it has to do with the rising ticket costs it takes to go and see a sports game.  I mean, if the Thrashers DO end up coming here to Winnipeg, I will attend as many games as I can on the budget I live on.  Can I afford season's tickets?  Good God no.  I picture a single ticket to a game in the lower bowl of an arena will run somewhere around $90 a ticket.  Take your kids and your girlfriend or wife, and you suddenly aren't eating red meat for the rest of the month, are you? 

Alas, it may come to be that the Thrashers will be playing elsewhere next year, or in the near years to come.  And if the Thrash do end up coming to play here in Winnipeg, we as fans promise to NOT forget their history and where they came from... (Like so many Coyotes fans have about our beloved Jets when they left)  At least this fan won't.      

Since: Sep 8, 2006
Posted on: May 17, 2011 12:37 pm

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

Time zones shouldn't have anything to do with it. It logistically makes more sense with travel times and expenses to put the Predators in the Southeast. They may draw more fans when the Wings or Blackhawks are in town, but who's to say they won't pack the house when the Caps, Canes or Lightning come in if they're in the SE? You could then put Colorado in the Central to foster Wings-Avs again, and the Winnipeg franchise takes the spot in the NW.

Having seen others mention Portland and Seattle as potential cities, I would definitely llke to see that, but I think that Canada deserves one or two more teams first. The NHL would also have the issue of then uprooting two WHL teams and puting them elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest (since they do play in the U.S. Division). Quebec City won't get a relocated franchise because the ownership group that screwed the Nordiques said they would only take an expansion team. Hamilton would cause some realignment issues as well, issues that would not be nearly as clean as what we could have here. With this information in hand, Canada may only get one more team, in Winnipeg. If the Coyotes still have to move after next season, I say put them in Seattle. The fans are suffering even more now because their beloved Sonics are in the West finals and it isn't their team anymore. That market could and would support an NHL team. Even better, you wouldn't have to shift divisions at all.

I see this like when the NFL realigned and put the Colts in the AFC South. It made more sense at the time to have the Colts stay in the East in order to play the Jets and Pats play twice a year as opposed to having the Dolphins there, plus Miami could have then built a rivalry with Jacksonville and obviously the geography made more sense... still makes more sense now to have done that... but then again I'm not working for the NFL.

Since: May 17, 2011
Posted on: May 17, 2011 12:17 pm

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

I can't see Nashville going east. Granted it would make some sense geographically because they're the closest "southern" city, but they're in the central time zone, which is the whole reason for Detroit and Columbus wanting to move east, they're actually in the eastern time zone but play in the western conference. Detroit has the seniority and they'll move to the Northeast if they want to, which just means moving a few teams to accommodate. Boston could go to the Atlantic and Pittsburgh to the Southeast. I know I'll get a ton of crap for the latter idea, but think about the already heated rivalry between Pittsburgh and Washington continuing as division rivals and who knows maybe Tampa and Pittsburgh might even become good rivals after their seven game series. If Detroit doesn't go east then send Columbus to the southeast and move Minnesota to the Central.
But like I said moving Nashville east makes no sense, its bad enough having two western teams in an eastern time zone let alone those two still in the west and now an eastern team in the central time zone.       

Since: Sep 14, 2006
Posted on: May 17, 2011 12:16 pm

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

Should have never been given a 2nd chance to begin with, Atlanta and Miami are the 2 worst sports cities in the U.S.  Now just move Florida to Hamilton or Quebec City and Phoenix to Seattle.

Since: Feb 22, 2008
Posted on: May 17, 2011 11:30 am

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

I would love to see this happen, if for nothing more than the possibility of Detroit going to the East to reunite with the likes of the Maple leafs and Canadiens. However, I fear that Nashville will simply get bumped to the Southeast, with Minnesota bumping over to the Central to make room for Winnipeg in Northwest.

This will likely be the final straw for hockey in Tennessee as the Preds rely on much of their fan turnout for the division rivals of Detroit and Chicago. Not altogether a negative outcome to remove two NHL teams from southern cities where they never belonged, but forcing them into financial troubles as a result of bad business decisions by Bettman decades ago is not the answer. 

Since: Mar 20, 2007
Posted on: May 17, 2011 11:17 am

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

To all of you people who do not live in have no clue what the situation is here.

Plain and simple, the ownership of this franchise drove it into the ground.  All blame is squarely on the NHL for awarding the franchise to the idiotic ownership group back in 2004. 

The fans are here, as proven in the first 7 or 8 years....check out the attendance from 1999-2007.  But the Atlanta Spirit clowns then started the in-fighting and endless lawsuits and tried to run the Thrashers on the cheap.  The fans finally were fed up of these clowns and their pawn Don Waddell putting an AHL caliber team on the ice.   

Atlanta deserves better than the sorry management this team has had for the last 7 years.

It is a shame, things are starting to look up now that Waddell is gone.
Well, the fact that the Braves have no such infighting issues, and ruled the NL for a decade, and fans STILL wouldn't show up tells me that the fanbase IS the problem.

Since: Mar 20, 2007
Posted on: May 17, 2011 11:13 am

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

Excellent!! NHL teams in the south just suck for the game!   I would love to see teams back in Canada, incliding Winnipeg and Quebec
!I agree, its like college football north of the mason-dixon line; it is simply an inferior product.  Football in the south, hockey in the north.  That being said I love hockley and will be attending the finals tonight in Shreveport for my local minor league hockey team.  Too bad more of my fellow Shreveporters won't be there.

Since: Mar 20, 2007
Posted on: May 17, 2011 11:08 am

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

Atlanta is by far the worst sports city in America.  The Braves have more empty seats than full, and that is during the playoffs.  If they lose the Trashers, they should be blackballed from any further major sports team until they can prove, as a city, that sports mean more to them than whatever it is that non-sports fan do.  Sewing?  Knitting?  Real Housewives?  I don't know of course as i am usually at a sporting event...

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