SBD/May 13, 2011/Franchises

Bettman Refutes Reports That Thrashers Relocation To Winnipeg Is Imminent

Attempts to find a buyer to keep team in Atlanta have been unsuccessful

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "refuted reports Thursday that an announcement was imminent on the sale and relocation" of the Thrashers to Winnipeg, according to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com. Bettman said, "So people just make this stuff up, right? ... Whatever is being written (about Atlanta) is being made up." LeBrun notes that is "not to say the Thrashers won't move." A source said that the team moving to Winnipeg remains a "distinct possibility." Bettman: "You know my position on franchise relocation. But you also know that in the instances where we've moved, it's resulted in instances where nobody wanted to own a club there anymore." Bettman would not comment on whether the Thrashers and Winnipeg-based True North Sports & Entertainment had begun talks (ESPN.com, 5/12). Bettman on his "NHL Hour" show on Sirius XM Radio Thursday said, "I think everybody needs to take a step back because I think there's been a fair amount of speculation, supposition and even hysteria in the media, which has been largely fabricated" (NHL.com, 5/12). Meanwhile, in Winnipeg, Kevin Engstrom reports 17-year-old Edmonton native Parminder Sahota was able to "sucker the Twitterverse into believing a news conference announcing" the Thrashers’ move to Winnipeg had been slated for Friday at MTS Centre. She made the "faux announcement" to the 2,000-plus people who follow her Twitter feed and credited the story to TSN, which was “forced into publicly denouncing the tweet as inaccurate” (WINNIPEG SUN, 5/13).

QUESTIONS REMAIN: The ATLANTA CONSTITUTION's Jeff Schultz discussed the Thrashers with NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly on Thursday. Below are excerpts from the Q&A. 

Q: Can you guarantee the team will be in Atlanta next season?
Daly: Nope. I can’t guarantee that.

Q: Can you address rumors that a franchise sale and a move to Winnipeg is pretty much done and that an announcement is imminent?
Daly: There is nothing that has been done, nothing has been planned and nothing has been scheduled. Certainly, no transaction has been agreed to, not that I’m aware of.

Q: You and commissioner Gary Bettman both made frequent trips to Phoenix to speak publicly about the Coyotes staying there, but there has been no similar efforts in Atlanta. Why not?
Daly: The situations are very different from a host of perspectives, not the least of which are the bankruptcy issues we had (in Phoenix), the fight in bankruptcy court and the league having to purchase the club. There were a unique set of circumstances that required the league’s presence in Glendale. The bottom line is, we owned that club.

Q: I understand that. But does that preclude you or Gary from coming to Atlanta to show support for the franchise and help the process?
Daly: No, of course not. If there was some reasonable sense that a public appeal would move the process along, then something would be done. But we’re not at that point (AJC.com, 5/12).

WORKING ON A SOLUTION: Atlanta Spirit co-Owner Bruce Levenson before Thursday's Bulls-Hawks game said the ownership group's job is to "find a solution" in Atlanta. But when asked if the solution is any closer than it was a month or two ago, he responded, "I don't think so. No." He added that he does not have a "drop dead date" to sell the team. Levenson said, "I hope we can find somebody who can come in and take either a controlling interest -- it's their choosing -- (or) own the whole thing. We have been working on this a long time" (11ALIVE.com, 5/13). Meanwhile, the GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts reports former Braves P Tom Glavine's efforts to put together a group to buy the Thrashers and keep them in Atlanta are "not going well." Glavine said that he "tried talking to people he knew who had both the necessary funds and interest in hockey but did not get anywhere." He said the Thrashers' chances of staying in Atlanta are "uncertain at best" (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/13).

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Atlanta Thrashers, Franchises

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