SBD/May 16, 2011/Franchises

Source Says Chances Good That Thrashers Will Move To Winnipeg

There currently is no timetable for completion of sale of Thrashers

With "no more than three weeks left before a decision has to be made on the fate" of the Thrashers, a source said that he "believes the 'chances are good' the Thrashers will relocate to Winnipeg," according to Eric Francis of the CALGARY SUN. The schedule-makers "can wait until no later than the first week of June before the NHL needs to know where the franchise will play during the 2011/12 season." There "simply appears to be no interest in anyone keeping the poorly-run team in the eighth-ranked U.S. TV market." The relocation fee would be $60M "on top of the sale price" (CALGARY SUN, 5/15). In Atlanta, Chris Vivlamore noted there is "no timetable on the possible completion of a deal" with Winnipeg-based True North Sports & Entertainment. It also is "not known if such an agreement could be reached in time for next season" (AJC.com, 5/13). Atlanta Spirit co-Owner Bruce Levenson said in an e-mail, "We are still trying to find someone to buy the team and keep them in [Atlanta]. Nobody has pushed forward with an offer" (AP, 5/13).

MOVING TO THE EAST? In Columbus, Aaron Portzline reported if the Thrashers move to Winnipeg, the franchise would "almost certainly be shifted to the Western Conference, forcing a club in the West -- likely Columbus or Detroit, both in the Eastern Time Zone -- to move to the East, specifically the Southeast Division." It has been assumed for years that the Red Wings have "first dibs on moving East," and some have said that the team was "promised the first ticket back to the East" when it landed in the Western Conference in '93. But NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said that "no such agreement -- written or unwritten -- exists, that it would be up to a vote" by the NHL BOG. The Red Wings "might have a hard time coming up with support; the team helps sell tickets throughout Western Conference arenas" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 5/15). 

DIFFERENT CIRCUMSTANCES: USA TODAY's Kevin Allen wrote if the Thrashers move, it "certainly will seem as if the NHL didn't do as much to save the Thrashers as they have in their attempts to save" the Coyotes (USATODAY.com, 5/13). The GLOBE & MAIL's Stephen Brunt noted a spokesperson for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has acknowledged that the city "wouldn't even consider a handout like the one offered by Glendale" to the Coyotes. Brunt: "So there is the significant difference between the two places. Not the size or desirability of the television market (Atlanta wins there), or the fan support (mediocre to lousy in both), or the local hockey culture (let’s just say it’s a minority passion), or the availability of an actual, cheque-writing potential owner (no sign of one in either place). It’s the fact that in one, there are patsies in local government who, whatever the prevailing economic climate, are willing to offer up a no-questions-asked handout because they’ve gone all in trying to build their backwater around professional sport" (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/14).

STUCK IN LIMBO: The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts cited sources as saying that the NHL wants to take the purchase agreement it has with Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer for the Coyotes, the Jobing.com Arena lease and the terms of the municipal bond sale, "drop it in the lap of a judge and ask for a ruling." If the judge "says the deal is legal," the Goldwater Institute, which has opposed the deal, "would be told to go pound salt and the bonds go to market." The "trouble is, a judge's job is to issue rulings on actual lawsuits or other court actions, not make declarations on hypothetical situations." So the plan is a "non-starter, for now." Meanwhile, Hulsizer is "said to be less-than pleased Glendale is courting" Bulls and White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf again (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/14).

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Atlanta Thrashers, Franchises

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