Posted on: May 18, 2011 11:23 pm

Gary Bettman says don't buy into Winnipeg hype

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said he is “not aware” of any looming deal that would see the Atlanta Thrashers move to Winnipeg.

“There has been so much speculation,” Bettman said during the first intermission of Game 2 of the Western Conference finals on TEAM 1040-AM on Wednesday night. “How many people in your line of work were reporting the Coyotes were going to Winnipeg? Where is that coming from? It’s made up. It didn’t happen. The minute the Coyotes made it clear it clear they’re staying, we’re on to Atlanta.”

There reports out of Atlanta aren’t figments of our imagination. The Thrashers’ ownership group, Atlanta Spirit, has suffered tumult for several months the parties appear very motivated to sell both the Thrashers and possibly the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. True North, an ownership group based in Winnipeg, has worked with the league for a couple years in attempt to get a team back to that market and reportedly is in talks with Atlanta Spirit of acquiring the Thrashers.

“True North is going about their business and they’re taking a businesslike approach,” Bettman said. “We are pleased with that, but there’s nothing to report. . . . I never say never about anything. There is no deal right now.”

-- A,J. Perez
Posted on: May 17, 2011 6:43 pm
Edited on: May 18, 2011 12:23 am

Lil' Jon, Bruckheimer pop up in Atlanta rumors

We've had Tom Glavine. There's been the mysterious "Balkan." Former player Anson Carter, now in the music and apparel business, entered the picture, too.

Now add the names Lil' Jon and Jerry Bruckheimer to the list of potential owners to keep the Thrashers in Atlanta? According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, that's exactly what you should do.

The latest talk swirling around the financially ailing Atlanta Thrashers has the team possibly staying in Atlanta courtesy of – wait for it – Atlanta hip hop artist and producer Lil’ Jon and big-time film and TV producer Jerry Bruckheimer, reports Atlanta Business Chronicle broadcast partner WXIA-TV.

The Atlanta-based rap mogul and movie producer would make for an interesting pairing and would certainly have the money needed to back a franchise that was valued at $135 million by Forbes. And while Lil' Jon might seem like an odd choice to own a team on the surface considering he can be found courtside at almost every Miami Heat game played this season, he is an avid hockey fan, saying in the past how much he enjoyed watching the Atlanta Flames playing back in the day at the Omni.

At this point, I'm wondering who will be next? Either way, the time is running short if Atlanta wants to stay in town. It's gotten to the point where NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly won't guarantee the Thrashers will stick around, a rather damning statement at this point considering how adamant Gary Bettman and the NHL were in the Coyotes not emmigrating from Phoenix.

-- Brian Stubits

Posted on: May 16, 2011 1:25 pm
Edited on: May 16, 2011 11:23 pm

Reports: Winnipeg group in talks with Thrashers

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
Posted on: April 29, 2011 7:18 pm
Edited on: April 29, 2011 7:49 pm

Report: Mystery man looking to buy Thrashers?

Is there a knight in shining armor for the damsel in distress that is the Atlanta Thrashers? According to an Atlanta radio host, there is.

John Kincade of 680 AM in Atlanta says that a mysterious man he calls The Balkan is on his way to the city to negotiate to buy the fledgling Thrashers as well as the NBA's Hawks and the operating rights to Phillips Arena.

“This weekend in Atlanta I will come face to face with #thebalkan,” Kincade tweeted. “Others will too! The final chapter of the saga is about to begin!”

Sounds a little too good to be true? It might be. Why trust a local radio host for any bit of information? He was already right concerning non-disclosure agreements the owners had when he was met with incredible skepticism.So he has a sliver of credibility when talking about the Atlanta ownership circus.

If a deal can't get done, the Thrashers are presumed to be scooped up by True North Sports Entertainment, which would promptly relocate the organization to Winnipeg. The former home of the Jets has also been mentioned as a possible landing spot for the similarly beleaguered Phoenix Coyotes.

However, it's worth noting that Kincade says it's an all-or-nothing purchase the mystery man is interested in.

“I never said I was 100% sure this was going through,” Kincade cryptically tweeted. “IF they sell all 3 it will be to #thebalkan. No interest in just Thrashers.”

It's an incredibly odd story that many, especially in Manitoba, think is totally false. It might be. If nothing else, it makes for a great soap opera, which is exactly where Kincade pulled the name The Balkan from in the first place. from General Hospital to be exact. But it certainly has the feeling this guy is The Balkan Whisperer. Or just interested in buying more time to find ownership help. Either way, it bears monitoring.

If you think about it, the people North of the Border would seem to be onto something here, it's an interesting choice of nicknames. And why the mystery? Sounds like a load. But at this point, who knows? It's been a weird situation from the start, why not get weirder?

-- Brian Stubits

Posted on: April 28, 2011 2:07 pm
Edited on: April 28, 2011 2:18 pm

Glendale receives $25 million bill from NHL

The struggle goes on in Glendale to keep the Coyotes.

The latest news is that the NHL has sent the city a bill for $25 million to cover the team's losses this season. If you'll remember, the NHL took ownership of the team while it and the city have been looking to land an owner that would keep the team in Arizona.

Now the $25 million won't come as a shock to the city. It promised a year ago that it would have the same amount of money set aside to cover such losses so long as the city was given more time to find an owner. The hope for the city was that it wouldn't have to spend the money set aside, that a new owner would foot the bill.

It looked like Matthew Hulsizer would be that new owner, but the process has hit more than a few snags. After all, nothing about hockey in the desert is easy. A local watchdog group took exception to some of the city's role in the ownership situation, which has been part of the reason the process has been gummed up. However, officials for Glendale are hopeful a new deal is close.

It's unclear how much longer the city will be given to close a deal to keep the team in town. Commissioner Gary Bettman has been patient, rebuking Jim Balsillie's attempt to buy the franchise and move it to Hamilton, Ontario. But many speculated that was more to block a move to put another team in Toronto's footprint. The most recent rumors were that the team would be on its way to Winnipeg at the end of the playoffs.

Stay tuned.

-- Brian Stubits

Posted on: April 21, 2011 2:13 pm
Edited on: April 21, 2011 2:25 pm

Bryzgalov not interested in moving to Winnipeg

The minute the Coyotes lost -- OK, well before they lost -- it was rumored a move to Winnipeg would be next for the struggling franchise. That's been the topic of discussion and the fear among Coyotes fans. Apparently it's a fear among some players, too.

Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, a large reason Phoenix has reached the postseason the last couple of seasons, isn't interested in being a Jet.

Courtesy of the Winnipeg Sun

"You don't want to go to Winnipeg, right?" Bryzgalov said after the Coyotes lost to Detroit, Wednesday night. "Not many people live there, not many Russian people there. Plus it's cold. There's no excitement except the hockey. No park, no entertaining for the families, for the kids. It's going to be tough life for your family."
It's an interesting take, to say the least. It validates what some say, that, even though the fan support and interest aren't there, some players like playing in Southern markets where it's warm and hockey isn't the only draw in town. You would think a Coyote, who had to listen to his "home" crowd cheer when he surrendered any score to the Red Wings, might like the idea of a fervent fan base behind him.

So if the Coyotes do become the Jets -- or whatever nickname they would take -- what's next for Bryzgalov, a free agent this offseason? His home would be in play.

"I better go to somewhere in Russia, KHL, to be honest. Because KHL is Russian people, it's family, friends. Even as a cold place, I can speak to people in Russian language."
Losing Bryzgalov would be a blow for the franchise, but I don't think the fans in Winnipeg would be taken off their cloud if they get a team back in town. But just know, Coyotes fans, you aren't alone in not wanting the team to leave the desert.

-- Brian Stubits

Posted on: April 21, 2011 1:31 pm
Edited on: April 21, 2011 6:08 pm

Glavine wants to organize group, buy Thrashers

With the Thrashers' future on very shaky ground in Atlanta, a local legend might be stepping in to help.

Tom Glavine is interested in putting together a group to buy the fledgling franchise, telling an Atlanta radio station he hopes to organize a group to purchase the team, but he "makes no promises."

It's been a nasty ownership situation in Atlanta, both with the Thrashers and the Hawks. There was a rift among the ownership partners that spiraled into an ugly situation upon the transfer to new owners, Atlanta Spirit LLC. With all that, the Thrashers look close to skipping town.

It's well-chronicled that Glavine was an excellent hockey player before deciding to go with baseball as his pro choice. Many thought he made the wrong decision, but it seemed to work out pretty well. The longtime star for the Braves (and Mets) was drafted out of high school by the Kings.

Since retiring from baseball, he has been a season ticket holder for the Thrashers and coaches his son's hockey team.

Indications are Glavine wouldn't be able to foot the entire bill (around $80 million to $100 million), so he'd need some fellow investors to join in. But at this point for the hockey fans in Atlanta, this is excellent news. The fact the team has been losing money hand over fist and somebody is still interested in buying the team to keep it in town is great. Just makes it better it's coming from a local favorite.

Forbes valued the Thrashers 29th out of 30 teams in the NHL.

-- Brian Stubits

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com