Prospective Thrashers Owner True North Sports & Entertainment sold 1,870 season tickets yesterday during the "first of three days they are on sale to select pre-sale groups, before the general public is allowed to purchase on Saturday," according to Ross Romaniuk of the WINNIPEG SUN. The total is "about 14% of the 13,000 season tickets True North wants to sell within three weeks, before the NHL's board of governors votes on approving the move" of the franchise to Winnipeg. The pre-sale for season-ticket holders for the AHL Manitoba Moose and for True North's corporate partners began yesterday at 1:00pm CT and "will run until Friday at 10 p.m." The sale for the general public "will begin on Saturday at noon" (WINNIPEG SUN, 6/2). True North officials said that "just over 8,000 tickets could be sold prior to Saturday's general public opening and close to a quarter of those tickets have already been claimed." In Winnipeg, Gary Lawless writes, "The Drive to 13,000, should it be successful, will give Winnipeg's NHL franchise both economic viability and certainty." True North CEO Jim Ludlow: "Having certainty in our revenue world going forward over a three-, four-, five-year period is very, very important in regards to sustainability and traction in the community" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 6/2).
DEAL RAMIFICATIONS: Thrashers President Don Waddell said that though True North has not "rechristened the team yet, they did not purchase the rights to the Thrashers' name as part of the deal." Waddell: "They bought the assets of the company, excluding name and logo. That remains with our ownership group, Atlanta Spirit." In Atlanta, Tim Tucker notes True North "plans to announce the team's new name in the coming weeks," and options "include Winnipeg Jets, Manitoba Moose and Winnipeg or Manitoba Falcons." Meanwhile, Waddell said that he "won't be moving to Winnipeg." He also said that he "thought the Thrashers 'were off the table for moving this year' until an unexpected deal three weeks ago to keep the Phoenix Coyotes in Arizona for another season." That deal "led the Winnipeg group to instead pursue the money-losing Thrashers for immediate relocation" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 6/2). In Winnipeg, Paul Friesen reports NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman approached True North Chair Mark Chipman "about taking over the Coyotes in time for the 2009-10 season." Chipman in May '10 also "quietly flew to New York, where he spent an entire week hammering out a deal with the league," and Chipman said the two sides "had basically come to an agreement in principle." But Glendale decided to "bail out the team for a year." Chipman added when Glendale "acquired another year" last month, True North execs "immediately skipped tracks and were presented with the Atlanta opportunity" (WINNIPEG SUN, 6/2). NEWFOUND HOME FOR AHL MOOSE: In Newfoundland, Brendan McCarthy reports former Newfoundland & Labrador Premier Danny Williams yesterday announced that he had "reached an agreement to have the AHL's Manitoba Moose relocate" to St. John's for the '11-12 season. Williams will "lease the club over a four- or five-year term from True North Sports and Entertainment, which has operated the Moose in Winnipeg for the past 15 years." The deal is "still subject to approval" by the AHL BOG, but "no one is expecting that to be a roadblock." St. John's City Council "must also approve the deal." McCarthy notes the deal marks the return of AHL hockey to St. John's "after an absence of six years" (St. John's TELEGRAM, 6/2).
Chiefs Chair Clark Hunt said that the team is "leading the league in new ticket sales by a significant margin," according to Adam Teicher of the K.C. STAR. Chiefs President Mark Donovan said of the lockout, "Obviously, winning the division and going 10-6 and having the excitement that went along with it, that built great momentum for us. That helped us with ticket sales." However, he added, "It's hard to measure how much more we could have grown or how much we were impacted by [the lockout]" (K.C. STAR, 6/2). In Baltimore, Kevin Van Valkenburg reported yesterday marked the deadline for Ravens fans to make "full payment on all season tickets," and team President Dick Cass revealed the team is "actually slightly ahead of where we were last year" for season-ticket sales. However, "most season-ticket holders -- especially if they are PSL owners -- feel like they don't have a choice." Ravens fan Jerry Sandrowsky said, "Bottom line, if I forgo paying the Ravens, I risk losing the $6,000 PSL investment I made back in 2005." Van Valkenburg noted if games "do end up getting canceled" due to the lockout, season-ticket holders "will get their money back plus 1 percent interest from the team." Meanwhile, a source said that the Ravens, Cass and Owner Steve Bisciotti last week "decided to reverse" the decision to cut all employees' pay by 25% during the lockout and to "restore salaries to 100 percent (with missing back pay), in part because they want the Ravens to continue to be regarded as one of the best teams in the league to work for, in both good times and bad." But the source added that the Ravens "have said internally they will reevaluate the situation again in September if the lockout is not resolved" (Baltimore SUN, 6/1).
CREATIVE SOLUTIONS: ESPN.com's Bill Williamson wrote Raiders Chief Exec Amy Trask "has scored a touchdown" by "finding a way to keep business flowing and productivity high" during the lockout. Trask "came up with a creative way to both avoid giving employees pay cuts during the lockout and boost season-ticket sales," as the team has "asked every employee, coaches included, to make up 10 percent of their salary by selling season tickets during the lockout." Trask: "I wanted to find a solution for the Raiders that was constructive and productive for everyone in the organization and to make the Raiders bigger and stronger. We think we have accomplished it in the terms of people from different departments in the building are all working together" (ESPN.com, 6/1). Meanwhile, in Jacksonville, Vito Stellino writes the Jaguars "keep coming up with new ways to engage the fan base during the lockout." In their latest move, the Jaguars will host a "Jaguars Movie Night at Everbank Field on June 24 for the showing of the film, 'The Blind Side.'" The event is "for season ticket holders and their guests" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 6/2). MEDIA LOCKED OUT: YAHOO SPORTS' Michael Silver noted Panthers players hired a "uniformed cop to keep reporters away from Tuesday's workout session at a Charlotte high school." But Silver wrote by "locking out reporters -- and, by extension, your fans -- in the midst of a lockout, you are damaging your cause on numerous levels." Silver: "You’re missing an opportunity to cast yourselves in a positive light during a time of tumultuous discord that threatens to get worse as the scheduled start of the 2011 season nears" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/1). In Charlotte, Joseph Person noted Panthers OTs Jordan Gross and Travelle Wharton are "covering the costs of the sessions," which include paying for police "stationed at the entrance to the private school to keep fans and media away." The sessions include "meeting about the playbook and schemes that will be installed by new Panthers coach Ron Rivera and his staff." The media "will be allowed in for a portion of the final session on June 9" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 6/1).
In Minneapolis, Jerry Zgoda cites a source as saying that G Ricky Rubio has "signed an NBA contract" to join the T'Wolves next season after the team selected him with the No. 5 pick in the '09 NBA Draft. A news conference announcing the deal "will be held when Rubio's European season ends later this month." Rubio signed his contract on Tuesday, the "last day he could secure a contract for next season" under terms of the league's CBA. Zgoda writes bringing Rubio to the U.S. is a "major achievement" for T'Wolves President of Basketball Operations David Kahn (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 6/2).
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: Lakers Owner Jerry Buss on Tuesday said that he "was hurt and confused by criticism of his son," Lakers Exec VP/Player Personnel Jim Buss, for his "handling of the hiring of new coach Mike Brown." Jerry Buss said, "I could not understand that. ... Jim and I and (GM) Mitch Kupchak made that decision jointly. We were all at every meeting from the beginning to the end, and suddenly it was on Jim's shoulders. Mitch didn't get accused, I didn't get accused, where that all came from I have no idea, nor does he." He added, "I'm a father and anybody criticizes any of my children, it's hard for me to take" (ESPNLA.com, 5/31).
A GIANT STEP: The MLB Giants yesterday released a PSA for the anti-homophobia "It Gets Better" campaign, two weeks after the club said that it "would become the first professional sports team" to do so. Giants P Barry Zito, who appears in the spot alongside fellow Ps Matt Cain and Sergio Romo, CF Andres Torres and hitting coach Hensley Meulens, said the five of them "speak for the entire Giants organization when we say that there is no place in society for hatred and bullying against anyone" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/1).
DROPPING THE HAMMER: West Ham United has "dismissed a claim on Twitter" by F1 Team Lotus Owner Tony Fernandes that he "has made an offer" to buy the relegated EPL club. Fernandes tweeted, "For all you West Ham fans an offer has gone to the present owners of West Ham. Let's see if they accept." His alleged bid was "greeted with scepticism because buyers rarely make their intentions known publicly," and West Ham was "quick to knock down the story." Fernandes "has claimed in recent weeks that he was also interested in buying" Norwich City, which will join the EPL next season (LONDON TIMES, 6/2).