SBD/June 22, 2011/Franchises

NHL BOG Approves Sale Of Thrashers To True North, Relocation To Winnipeg

Winnipeg franchise will compete in the Southeast Division next season

The NHL's BOG yesterday approved the sale of the Thrashers to True North Sports & Entertainment and allowed for the relocation of the franchise to Winnipeg. The team will continue to play in the Southeast Division next season while a plan for realignment is discussed for the '12-13 campaign (THE DAILY). In Winnipeg, Tim Campbell notes with the announcement, the NHL and the Winnipeg franchise launched the "as-yet-unnamed team's official website, winnipeg.nhl.com." At the conclusion of yesterday's BOG meeting, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that the league "regretted having to leave a market, in this case Atlanta." Bettman: "We deeply regret that Atlanta's ownership was unable to secure local partners after exhausting every option and alternative." He added, "At the same time, we are delighted that NHL hockey is returning to Winnipeg and to a fan base that already is showing so much support for its team" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 6/22). More Bettman: "People have noticed very clearly what Winnipeg has accomplished in a very short period of time, selling out 13,000 season tickets in record time. Sometimes it's not just the size of the market ... it's a function of the intensity of the market." Meanwhile, Bettman said that BOG members are "not ready to revolt over their continued ownership" of the Coyotes. Bettman: "The board isn't funding the losses. The city of Glendale is. And the board is comfortable with where things are" (WINNIPEG SUN, 6/22). Devils President, CEO & GM Lou Lamoriello said, "In my opinion, the right decision was made with the way it was handled in regard to Winnipeg and also the right decision was made with Phoenix to try to keep it in that market. The city is trying very hard. They are separate situations that have been handled for the best of the league first and also for the individual franchise" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 6/22).

TIME TO HEAD NORTH? In Winnipeg, Gary Lawless notes the NHL "will boast seven Canadian franchises" with the addition of Winnipeg, and "don't be surprised if that number swells to nine within five years." Quebec City "wants a franchise and Southern Ontario could certainly hold a second team." Growing the game is the league's "mandate and while having an attractive TV footprint in the U.S. is a fine idea, it hasn't paid the bills." The "experiment is over and now Canada has to be the NHL's target" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 6/22). However, Maple Leafs President & GM Brian Burke, who "was quick to say he's all for putting a team back in Winnipeg," delivered a "little reality check" yesterday. He said, "There's always a rush of euphoria. There's always a rush of patriotism. You look at NFL expansion teams, the first five years are never the problem. And then you look at some of them with attendance issues. It's far from over. ... It's not a slam dunk. Everyone in Winnipeg has to support this team" (WINNIPEG SUN, 6/22).

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