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: Oct 23, 2006
Posted on: May 16, 2011 7:28 pm

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

A quick take:
there are so many teams right now in the NHL with troubled ownership that it's amazing that atlanta is getting any play, but i wouldn't let them move yet; they haven't suffered enough.   this will be the second time the NHL has been duped by jackass ownership groups, and they need to pay through the nose for that.   instead, i'd never have let the city of glendale string me along for another year, 25 mil or not, and would have jumped at the chance of moving them to winnipeg, that team has to move somewhere/ anywhere.    

then throw in the Ball-silly problem: Betty-man gets in a pissing fight with a billionaire who's horny, yes horny, to get a team in such an ugly spectacle that anybody else with money would have to be stupid to buy a team.  too bad his preferred choice of city would have shot (or killed) the buffalo.  but then again, so would a second team in hog-town.  (toronto)

the real problem is that even if winnipeg and quebec city get teams, there are way too many weak ownership groups that feed on city money to survive.  the NHL has to adopt a policy that rejects ownership bids dependent on city money.

Since: Oct 20, 2008
Posted on: May 16, 2011 6:54 pm

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers


The fans are here, as proven in the first 7 or 8 years....check out the attendance from 1999-2007...
Just for the hell of it, I did:

Year     Avg Attendance  League Rank

99-00  17,206  11th
00-01  15,262  23rd
01-02  13,668  28th
02-03  13,476  28th
03-04  15,121  22nd
04-05 --  --
05-06  15,550  23rd
06-07  16,240  21st
07-08  15,831  22nd
08-09  14,625  29th
09-10  13,607  28th
10-11  13,469  28th

*Source =

The numbers don't support your claim.  Other than Year 1 (1999), the Thrashers never had good attendance, compared to the rest of the league, and consistently fell in the bottom 1/3 of the ratings.  Even in 2006-07, when the team won the divisional championship, attendance sucked. 

The sale to Atlanta Spirit certainly didn't help things, but it didn't "drive it into the ground" as you stated.  There's only a gradual decline evident in the last three years.

Face it, the city sucks for pro sports support, and never should've been awarded a NHL franchise (again).

Since: Sep 25, 2006
Posted on: May 16, 2011 6:43 pm

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

Also, attendance figures can be misleading.  The Wild have sold out every game in franchise history, and they're in the middle of the pack for attendance.  In Minnesota, it doesn't matter if the team is good; people here live and breathe hockey.  When we look at the stats, Chicago leads the league in attendance, but every time I see a Blackhawks game on TV, there are empty seats all over the place.

Since: Oct 20, 2008
Posted on: May 16, 2011 6:39 pm

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

Since: Sep 25, 2006
Posted on: May 16, 2011 6:33 pm

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

Hockey shouldn't be played below the Mason-Dixon line anyways.  The only places that should have teams are the northeast, uppermidwest, and Canada.  99% of NHL "fans" down south have never even stepped on the ice with a stick before.

Since: Jan 2, 2007
Posted on: May 16, 2011 6:04 pm

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

"So why then have there been several NFL teams fail in Los Angeles?"
I'll take a swing at this one and see how much of a mess I can stir up.

I think beyond the Lakers, Los Angeles is a bizarre sports market.  Dodger fans are notorious for showing up two or three innings into a game.  I've even heard Vin Scully poke a little fun at the ballpark filling up half an hour past first pitch.  Mind you they go to the games in solid numbers-- the Dodgers are almost always in the top five in average attendance.  They just never seem as fanatical about the games as teams in the midwest or eastern time zones-- think Cubs, White Sox, Cardinals, Yankees, Red Sox, or Phillies.  If you include Anaheim as part of the L.A. sports scene, the Angels draw well and their fans seem to be much more in to it than the Dodger fans.  It probably helps that they're farther away from the heart of L.A.-- a little less congested.

The Kings have been in the middle of the pack for NHL attendance for the better part of the last decade.  Usually you'll spot them anywhere between 13-14th all the way down to 20st-21st depending on which year you want to check out.  Winning or losing doesn't seem to affect them all that much-- it's more a place to be seen instead of good team vs. bad team.  If you include Anaheim, the Ducks have been fading for the last three to four years and they've been a damn good on-ice product.  Other than the '09-10 season, the Ducks have been a playoff team every season since the lockout and won the Cup in '07.  Their attendance numbers should be way stronger than the Kings and they're actually quite a bit worse.  In that respect, Anaheim sucks as a hockey market.

The Raiders time in Los Angeles really messed up things for the future of pro football in L.A.  When they arrived in '82, they were all-but a perennial playoff team and won SB XV two years before arriving and won SB XVIII just after arriving.  If it wasn't for playing in the Coliseum which is a poor-quality pro football stadium, they should have done better.  Let's also remember that most folks saw through the Al Davis dog-and-pony show and never embraced the club upon its arrival in L.A.  I suspect a good chunk of the population knew the team would leave when Al Davis thought it suited his master plan and never allowed themselves to become too attached to the club.  Add in the fact that Coliseum games were blacked out more often than not and you've got a quick and easy recipe for a team not being embraced by the local population.  The Rams suffered a similar fate by being forced to play in the Coliseum.  It's an absolute canyon of a building that almost never sold close to it's capacity of 90,000 tickets.  Like the Raiders after them, the Rams suffered a ton of blackouts and half empty games despite playing pretty good ball during the mid- to late-1970s before they left for Anaheim.  Also, don't forget to factor in that the Coliseum, when inhabited by the Rams & Raiders, sat in the middle of one of the worst parts of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles has to be the most bizarre, major sports markets in the world.  They have the population numbers and disposable income to support pro sports teams, but it's not part of their DNA like it is with cities in the midwest and northeast.  To compare L.A. to N.Y., Chicago, St. Louis, Boston, or Philly just isn't the same.  What works or doesn't work in L.A., doesn't just about anywhere else in the country.

Since: Jun 8, 2009
Posted on: May 16, 2011 5:53 pm

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

Have to disagree, BobKulong - 5.2million is a great deal bigger than 700K, but it doesn't stand for squat when 5.199 don't care for hockey. As for the playoff statistic - you're correct, one appearance and they were swept and the ownership group did nothing because, let's face it, the current ownership group is ineffectual and that will almost always translate into a poor on-ice product. There isn't an option in Atlanta as far as ownership goes, so, time to move on (again!).

Since: May 16, 2011
Posted on: May 16, 2011 5:50 pm

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

There is a gentleman's agreement in place that if an eastern team moves west, Detroit will move back to the Eastern Conference. Apparently it won't happen next year because the Board of Governors have to vote on it and they wont meet in time to change the schedule, but Detroit is the team that will move. I'm not sure how the divisions will look after - and I agree with you that it would really help Columbus to have them playing Pittsburgh, Philly, NY Rangers, and Buffalo more - but Detroit has been waiting for like 15 years to move east.

Since: Nov 3, 2006
Posted on: May 16, 2011 5:50 pm

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.


Since: Jun 8, 2009
Posted on: May 16, 2011 5:43 pm

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

Lovin' it!! I agree whole-heartedly that the Thrashers have more potential than the Coyotes - some great young talent on that team and in a hockey environment, with an ownership group committed to putting a decent product on the ice, well, they're only going to get better. Add in the instant rivalry with a team like Chicago and I think that it would be a big win for the NHL and any network carrying the games (Byfuglien and Ladd versus the Blackhawks! Sign me up!!).

Of course, Atlanta moving creates an interesting question when one considers the divisional line-ups...who moves to the east? I've long wanted Detroit back in the east, but would Columbus be a better option? If the NHL doesn't want to continue relocating teams, moving Columbus east would be a good idea - the fans there would stand to see more of Ovechkin and Crosby. Proximity wise, Nashville would be a likely candidate to take Atlanta's spot (and I only mean that Nashville is the closest city to Atlanta that isn't in the east). Any way you shake it, the NHL is going to want this cleaned up quickly!

Now, is there any chance that Teemu Selanne signs with Winnipeg in the off season if the Thrashers do move?? That would truly be the icing on the cake!

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