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
Comments

Since: Oct 20, 2008
Posted on: May 16, 2011 2:58 pm
 

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

 wrote:

I live in the Atlanta area. And though I am not a huge fan of the Thrashers, it would still pain me to see them leave. Having lived in Tampa for many years, and being a Tampa Bay Lightning fan, I don't see how people can say hockey in the South sucks. Its a cold weather sport. Thats crap! It is just like anywhere else. You put a good product on the ice and the poeple will come to watch. Seems to me that New York is a cold weather state and the Isalander and their attendance both suck. In 2004, the year the Lightning won the Stanley Cup, they were number three in attendance behind only Detriot and Montreal.  It has nothing to do with location.
Good post!

Whether a pro sports franchise is successful is dependent upon the fanbase.  If there is only ever lukewarm interest, and no infrastructure where young & casual fans can be encouraged to invest their entertainment dollars in, then the only result possible can be failure.  It's the reason that the Grizzlies no longer play in Vancouver, or that there is no NFL team in Los Angeles.

Phoenix is a good example of the fact that even if there is a good product on the ice, it's meaningless if fans aren't interested in watching.  Contrast that with Toronto- the heart of the hockey universe, where the Leafs arguably haven't been competitive for 30-something years, but whose fans are highly dedicated.

The Board of Governors are moving in the right direction- teams in consistently failing markets like Atlanta and Phoenix will be allowed to relocate.  Where? becomes the new question...




Since: Nov 15, 2006
Posted on: May 16, 2011 2:40 pm
 

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

I live in the Atlanta area. And though I am not a huge fan of the Thrashers, it would still pain me to see them leave. Having lived in Tampa for many years, and being a Tampa Bay Lightning fan, I don't see how people can say hockey in the South sucks. Its a cold weather sport. Thats crap! It is just like anywhere else. You put a good product on the ice and the poeple will come to watch. Seems to me that New York is a cold weather state and the Isalander and their attendance both suck. In 2004, the year the Lightning won the Stanley Cup, they were number three in attendance behind only Detriot and Montreal.  It has nothing to do with location.



Since: Jan 25, 2007
Posted on: May 16, 2011 2:39 pm
 

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

PLEASE move them to Winnipeg. Hockey should not be played in the south, and Bettman is a douchebag. If this happens, I couldn't be happier.



Since: Oct 6, 2006
Posted on: May 16, 2011 2:07 pm
 

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

Move the team to Winnipeg, and rename them the Jets.  I live in the south, and I enjoy watching hockey.  But, hockey is a sport for cold climates.



Since: Jan 15, 2008
Posted on: May 16, 2011 2:06 pm
 

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

Move the Thrasers to Winnipeg and will someone move the Coyotes to Kansas City!  I want another team in driving distance from Iowa. Kansas City loves their sport teams and plus they already have a building that is ready for an Ice Rink!



Since: May 16, 2007
Posted on: May 16, 2011 1:57 pm
 

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

Pretty sure the new TV deal was agreed upon in a way that even if there was relocation of up to a certain number of teams the $'s would be the same. Not sure Comcast/NBCU has any say in the matter.



Since: Jul 17, 2008
Posted on: May 16, 2011 1:54 pm
 

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!


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