SBD/April 11, 2011/Franchises

NHL Franchise Notes: Have Thrashers Played Last Game In Atlanta?

No serious talks have taken place on potential sale of Thrashers
In Atlanta, Chris Vivlamore noted the Thrashers' game against the Penguins yesterday could have been "more than the last game of the season; it could be the final one for the franchise." The Atlanta Spirit ownership group "has stated publicly it would prefer to keep the Thrashers here and is first looking for a buyer who will stay," but "relocation is a serious possibility." There have been "non-disclosure agreements signed between ... interested entities and the investment company, the Raine Group, hired by the Spirit to search for potential buyers or investors," but there have been "no serious negotiations beyond that preliminary step to date." Sources confirmed that the process "has not moved past that stage," and Vivlamore wrote there is a "big difference between expressing interest and having the financial ability to reach an agreement." Some groups have "expressed interest in buying" the Thrashers, Hawks and Philips Arena from Atlanta Spirit, but the "possibility of the sale of all three properties, the most likely scenario for the Thrashers to remain in Atlanta, has been described as 'one in a million' and 'one percent'" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 4/10).

RETURN OF THE BEAR: The Bruins have launched a "new ad that aims to crank up the fan base" ahead of the team's appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Titled "Where Do Bears Go?," the ad "features the Bruins mascot and some tasteful rest-room humor." The spot was created by Boston-based Mullen, which has "done recent work for the Bruins" (BOSTON.com, 4/11).

SURPRISING EXTENSION: In Ottawa, Wayne Scanlan reported the Senators announced a contract extension for GM Bryan Murray Friday at a "hastily called media conference." There had been talk of Owner Eugene Melnyk and Murray "hashing things out, or Murray accepting some lesser role away from the front lines." But if there was an "internal struggle between Murray and non-hockey management types with the Senators, Murray won the battle" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 4/9). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont noted "betting around the league for months has been that the Senators would turf" Murray "at the end of this season, if not sooner." But Melnyk, "as he is wont to do, surprised everyone" by extending Murray's contract (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/10).

TALE OF TWO CITIES: In St. Paul, Tom Powers writes under the header, "No Quick Fixes For Down-And-Out Wild." Powers: "There are more non-sellout nights than sellout nights. The salary cap has risen. The team isn't good enough to raise ticket prices. There are no revenue-producing playoff series on the horizon." The franchise also is "cutting corners," as Owner Craig Leipold recently "ditched five employees from the business side of his hockey-arena operations in an effort to cut expenses" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 4/11). Meanwhile, in L.A., Steve Galluzzo noted the Kings' final regular-season home game against the Ducks Saturday marked the team's "18th straight sell out and 35th of the season." The Kings averaged a "franchise-best" 18,080 fans this season at Staples Center (LATIMES.com, 4/9).
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