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Volume 24 No. 117
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NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman Discusses Sale, Relocation Of Thrashers

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman yesterday “talked about a variety of issues including what went wrong in Atlanta, the city as a hockey market and the relocation fee the league receives as part" of the Thrashers' sale to Winnipeg-based True North Sports & Entertainment, according to Chris Vivlamore of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION. Below are excerpts from the Q&A.

Q: Were there failings on the part of ownership in what turned out to be the fate of the Thrashers? If so, what were they?
Bettman: What is the old saying, success has many parents and failure is an orphan. Obviously, lots of factors came into play. I don’t want to suggest that ownership wasn’t one of those factors. However, I don’t think it is fair to suggest that it was the only reason.

Q: The NHL got $80 million to put a team in Atlanta (as an expansion franchise) and $60 million to move it out of Atlanta. What do you say to Thrashers fans who feel the league had an inherent conflict of interest and motives because it got $60 million for allowing the move?
Bettman: The purpose of the $60 million relocation was an attempt to encourage a local sale at a lower price. Obviously, it benefits the league. However, the practical effect would be to encourage a sale at a lower place. By requiring such a relocation fee, we were creating a lower than market value price for an NHL franchise for someone to buy it and keep it in Atlanta.

Q: What do you think of Atlanta as a hockey market? Does that differ from 1997 when the city was awarded the expansion franchise?
Bettman: We had high hopes in 1997. This is obviously not the result we envisioned or we wouldn’t have come. How we got to this position involves a number of issues and that’s why we find ourselves in the current situation.

Q: Atlanta has now lost two NHL franchises. Can you close the book on the city ever getting another team? Why or why not?
Bettman: I try to never say never about anything. You never know what life has in store. I don’t want to build false expectations, but I never say never (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 6/21).