True North Sports Officially Buys Thrashers, Will Move Team To Winnipeg
After two weeks of constant rumors and reports that a deal had been completed, the NHL, True North Sports, and Atlanta Spirit Group have announced that the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers is complete, and that True North Sports will move the team to Winnipeg for the 2011-12 season. The cost of the deal is rumored to be $110 million for the team and a $60 million relocation fee that is paid to the NHL. Atlanta will lose its second NHL franchise in the last thirty years. The NHL will be back in Winnipeg for the first time since the 1996-97 season. The sale and relocation are all dependent on a vote by the NHL Board of Governors on June 21.
The Atlanta Spirit, LLC. group had been trying to sell all its assets for a number of years now, but had been unsuccessful for numerous reasons. In the end, the Thrashers continued to lose, and lose money. ame a desirable product to fill the arena again. That leaves the Thrashers without an interested owner in Atlanta. Over the last few months, very little progress has been made to find local ownership for the team to keep them in Georgia. Even former Atlanta Braves ace Tom Glavine got involved with trying to keep the team in town. If the Thrashers leave Atlanta, it would be the second franchise to leave town and head to the plains of Western Canada. The Atlanta Flames moved from Atlanta to Calgary in 1980.
Once the situation in Phoenix was taken care of for the next year, the league turned negotiations to the Thrashers, and potential buyers. The league gave True North Sports the go ahead to negotiate a sale, which all parties involved announced today. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that a sale had not been agreed to until 4:30 this morning. The sale and move are both contingent on the NHL Board of Governors voting on the issue at its June 21 meeting. Between now and the board meeting, the franchise hopes to sell around 13,000 season tickets for the upcoming season. A change in ownership of an NHL franchise requires a 75% vote in favor of the candidate. A relocation vote only requires a majority vote in favor of the move. Once all the technical details are completed by the league, the team will be free to move to Winnipeg.
The team will play at MTS Centre in Winnipeg, which is also owned by True North Sports. MTS Centre has a capacity of just over 15,000, with potential to expand to even more seats. Once the team arrives in Winnipeg, it will remain in the Southeast Division for the upcoming season due to the short amount of time to overhaul the league map. There will be no division realignment for the upcoming season. There also has been no news as to what the team name will be once it returns to Winnipeg. For more information adn to see how we go to this point in the Thrashers sale, click on the links below:
The biggest step in having a stable, successful team in Winnipeg is ticket sales. With only 15,000 seats in the MTS Centre, they are already one of the smaller building in the NHL. It has even fewer seats for a hockey game than the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin. However, season ticket sales are expected to be through the roof for this season, and hopefully years to come. Bettman all but said that brisk ticket sales before the meeting would be an important factor in the Board of Governors giving the whole deal their approval.
While there are still many questions to be answered in the ongoing saga of hockey in Winnipeg, there is finally one certainty that is known for the first time since 1997: there will be NHL hockey in Winnipeg next season, and that fans in Winnipeg will be partying at Portage and Main for weeks to come, waiting for hockey to return.
Bryan Vickroy has an addiction to hockey, and is willing to partake in all its forms. He is skating extra shifts for The Sports Bank, covering the Minnesota Wild, the NHL, and NCAA hockey all year long. Look for new articles throughout the week. He can be followed on Twitter at @bryanvickroy. If you’d prefer to speak in more than 140 characters at a time to him, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .