Atlanta Thrashers Move To Winnipeg Official After NHL Board Of Governors Approval

The Board of Governors voted unanimously to move Atlanta's NHL franchise to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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Thrashers Winnipeg Relocation Finally Official After NHL Board Of Governors Approval

In what was clearly expected to be a final formality in the deal to send the Thrashers up to Winnipeg, the Board of Governors voted today to approve both the sale of the team to True North Sports and Entertainment as well as the relocation of the team to Winnipeg for the 2011-2012 NHL season:

It's official. NHL Board of Governors approves sale and relocation of #Thrashers.less than a minute ago via txt Favorite Retweet Reply

 

It was assumed weeks ago that the deal was done, as TNSE fired Thrashers General Manager (and architect of several Stanley Cup winning teams) Rick Dudley. They also informed the trainers, equipment staff, and eventually coach Craig Ramsay that they would all not be making the move. The new franchise replaced Dudley with former Chicago Blackhawks Assistant General Manager and Chicago Woives General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff,

The team goes into Saturday's NHL draft sans name, sans uniform (the draftees will be given a generic NHL uniform that I'm sure they'll be proud to wear and frame). The season's schedule comes out soon, with a team located in midwestern Canada playing in the Southeast Division with teams like the Florida Panthers. The rush job on this situation was as obvious as the nose on Brad Marchand's face - it's nice to see that it's finally drawn to a conclusion.

The wait and the agony are finally over, Thrashers fans. It ended not with a bang, but with a measly one sentence comment from the Commissioner.

EDIT: John Shannon of Rogers SportsNet states that the approval was unanimous, as was expected:

NHL Board Meeting over. Told that WPG vote was unanimous for sale and relocation.less than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® Favorite Retweet Reply

 

Check back with SB Nation Atlanta's frequently updated Thrashers sale StoryStream for the latest updates. For discussion, join Bird Watchers Anonymous, SB Nation's Atlanta Thrashers community or Behind The Net, our Winnipeg NHL community. For more hockey, visit SB Nation's NHL hub.

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Winnipeg NHL Season Ticket Hurdle Leapt In 17 Minutes, Enabling Thrashers Move

That 13,000 season tickets benchmark set by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman? Winnipeg NHL fans breezed past it 17 minutes after season tickets went on sale Saturday. This means there's officially just one step left for the Atlanta Thrashers to be moved to Manitoba, and it's only a formality: the June 21 Board of Governors vote.

Average attendance for the team's first Winnipeg season will thus likely near the MTS Centre's 15,015-seat capacity, meaning it will top Atlanta's four or five poorest-attended seasons.

A 2012 waiting list has already filled up too, meaning concerns about the team's future support may need to be delayed. The best-case scenario for Winnipeg is for the team to be adopted citywide a la the NFL's Green Bay Packers, and so far there's no evidence something similar won't happen.

Check back with SB Nation Atlanta's frequently updated Thrashers sale StoryStream for the latest updates. For discussion, join Bird Watchers Anonymous, SB Nation's Atlanta Thrashers community or Behind The Net, our Winnipeg NHL community. For more hockey, visit SB Nation's NHL hub.

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Quotes From True North's Thrashers Press Conference On Winnipeg NHL Relocation

At a MTS Centre press conference noon ET on May 31, True North Sports and Entertainment announced they've reached an agreement to purchase the Atlanta Thrashers from the Atlanta Spirit Group. Though the deal still needs NHL approval, it's essentially final that the team will relocate to Manitoba over the summer. 

Before the event began, a camera showed the arena's ice already in place. Here's a rundown of the press conference's events:

Scott Brown, a familiar True North name, thanked press for joining and fans for tuning in. At his side were Gary Bettman, Mark Chipman and ... some other guys. I'm sorry. He said, "True North Sports and Entertainment has long maintained that our goal has been to bring the highest-caliber sports and entertainment to this province."

Today marks the most significant announcement thus far as it relates to Winnipeg, Manitoba and the NHL. He then called on Chipman.

Chipman: "In the spring of 1995 I was fortunate to become close with our community's efforts to save our NHL Team. I came away with the realization that our lack of success was not anyone's fault. While the loss of the Winnipeg Jets had an effect on our city and province, it also stiffened our resolve to move forward."

He spoke of the city's commitment to running the Manitoba Moose as if it were a NHL team, and the guidance they received in running a major league franchise from that undertaking. In 1999, David Thomson joined up, leading to the MTS Centre's opening in 2004.

He said the NHL was also looking to correct the economics of its business model. He said he developed a relationship with Bettman and frequently made the point that Winnipeg should return to the league. In 2007, he and other Canadian NHL teams developed a presentation for the league, with the relationship between TNSE and Bettman "continuing to develop."

Chipman touted Winnipeg's economic development, comparing it favorably to the rest of the world's as of late. Chipman also thanked the Atlanta Spirit Group for their professionalism. Hold your laughter until the end, please.

Chipman: "On behalf of my family, our partner David Thompson, I am excited beyond words to announce our purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers ... As Mr. Bettman will explain in a moment, this transaction will be subject to the NHL's Board of Governors."

Bettman then took the podium. "It's nice to be back in Winnipeg after all these years ... Mark has been pursuing the NHL for quite a few years ... While Mark has been working behind the scenes with us, keeping the lines of communication open, at the same time the owners of the Thrashers have been looking to sell their club. Over this time, no real local ownership emerged, and Atlanta's ownership reached outside their local market. True North and Atlanta Spirit early this morning reached an agreement ... We were on a conference call at 4:30 ET, and it wasn't done yet."

Bettman again pointed out the June 21 Board of Governors vote.

"We don't like to move franchises. Sometimes we simply have no choice, as was the case in 1996 when we had to move the Jets. To our fans in Atlanta, we are not happy about leaving Atlanta. It was never about whether Winnipeg was better than Atlanta. The decision to move was only made after the team's ownership decided it was going to sell ... Times have changed for Winnipeg as a NHL market. The NHL has a different economic system that allows so-called small markets to compete."

He mentioned the NHL setting new highs in Canadian and American revenue and encouraged Winnipeg fans to start buying lots of season tickets -- 13,000, to be specific. Later, the website Driveto13.com was announced as the hub of that drive.

Manitoba's premier said a few words about the process, including himself among that 13,000.

All in all, they spent a lot of time talking about how big the MTS Centre is in Canada, at one point mentioning a Keith Urban concert as a high point. All right.

My favorite part: when the $39-and-up ticket pricing plan was pitched by listing NHL stars like Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin -- none of whom play for Winnipeg's new team. The average ticket price is $82, among Canada's most expensive.

Check back with SB Nation Atlanta's frequently updated Thrashers sale StoryStream for the latest updates. For discussion, join Bird Watchers Anonymous, SB Nation's Atlanta Thrashers community or head to one of our 34 other hockey communities. For more hockey, visit SB Nation's NHL hub.

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Atlanta Thrashers Sold; Winnipeg Will Get NHL Team, Pending Board Of Governors Approval

An announcement six years in the making: the Atlanta Thrashers are leaving. Winnipeg, Manitoba's True North Sports and Entertainment group has announced at a MTS Centre press conference that it's purchased the NHL team from the Atlanta Spirit Group after a negotiating process that was reportedly approved by the NHL months ago.

This will make the Thrashers the second major league hockey team to be relocated from Atlanta after the city's loss of the Flames in 1980. Once the NHL's Board of Governors votes to approve the move on June 21, of course -- unless local ownership pops up out of nowhere between now and then.

The sale price for the team had been assumed to be $170 million, counting a $60 million relocation fee that would go to the league and is not traditionally charged by the NHL in team relocations.  We'll find out more about the official financials soon, but one of the delays in completing the sale was Gary Bettman's reported desire to take an even bigger share of the final sale price than that $60 million slice, though the ASG reportedly ended up moving that needle in the other direction.

The team will likely remain in the Southeast Division for a season and play in True North's MTS Centre, a 15,015-seat rink on Portage Avenue that is expected to receive renovation money from the Manitoba government in order to properly host NHL games. The arena's current primary hockey tenant, the Manitoba Moose, expected to move across the continent to St. John's.

Though there were certainly good moments, the Thrashers will be remembered by most Atlanta hockey fans as a frustrating product with disinterested (at best) ownership that cut ties with its best prospects and players and went out of its way to spurn any association with the city's hockey heritage. However, it will also be credited with helping to sprout Georgia's youth and college hockey communities.

The team had reportedly been losing anywhere between $8 million and $30 million per year, depending on where you look -- here's Forbes' estimate. Though Philips Arena attendance was more or less in line with what could've been expected given the team's record, has outdrawn Original Six franchises in the past and ranked in the middle of the league during the team's first few seasons and its one successful season, it appears Bettman gave up on Atlanta as a NHL city long ago. Bettman insisted he was working behind the scenes for Atlanta, though the Globe and Mail reported a week prior that the Board of Governors OK'd the move long ago.

The quest, however sincere, for a local buyer to keep the team in Atlanta did not turn up very many candidates but couldn't have gotten all that far anyway due to the ASG's insistence on retaining the rights to the Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena. They went so far as to technically enter an exclusive negotiating period for the other two properties, preventing anyone from even attempting to purchase the entire suite.

What's next for local hockey fans? The Gwinnett Gladiators and college hockey are among your best bets, while the Nashville Predators are only a few hours away. Atlanta may never again be considered for a NHL team -- and we mean never never -- but that doesn't mean Georgia's hockey communities can't keep growing.

Check back with SB Nation Atlanta's frequently updated Thrashers sale StoryStream for the latest updates. For discussion, join Bird Watchers Anonymous, SB Nation's Atlanta Thrashers community or head to one of our 34 other hockey communities. For more hockey, visit SB Nation's NHL hub.

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Thrashers Move To Winnipeg Not Official Yet; Sale, Relocation Still Require June 21 NHL Approval

Though the Atlanta Spirit Group and True North have reached a deal that would turn the Atlanta Thrashers over to Winnipeg, the NHL has yet to sign off on the move. The league's Board of Governors won't meet to vote on the sale and relocation until June 21, giving anybody with an interest in keeping the team in town three weeks to act very, very quickly.

Three quarters of NHL governors must approve the sale of the team to True North, while a simple majority must approve the relocation to Winnipeg. Both are expected to be rubber stamped, and were reportedly all but assured months ago.

There's a chance in hell the move could be stopped between now and June 21, I suppose. We know what the NHL bylaws say about the matter, for instance, but those are only guidelines, not anything legally binding. 

Check back with SB Nation Atlanta's frequently updated Thrashers sale StoryStream for the latest updates. For discussion, join Bird Watchers Anonymous, SB Nation's Atlanta Thrashers community or head to one of our 34 other hockey communities. For more hockey, visit SB Nation's NHL hub.

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Thrashers' Winnipeg Move Will Be Announced Tuesday, Says True North

True North has scheduled a press conference for Tuesday at noon ET that can only mean one thing: the Atlanta Thrashers will be officially announced as relocating to Winnipeg, Manitoba for the 2011-12 NHL season and beyond. They'll presumably also announce the team's new name, which should be the Winnipeg Jets if anybody's been paying attention.

For the past few days the only question remaining has been when the deal would be announced, and now we know. We'd heard May 24 from the Globe and Mail, the 25th or 26th from Darren Dreger, as far out as Memorial Day from the Globe and Mail again and even later than that according to other outlets. June 1 finally looked to be the official day, though June 2 also lingered. And that's all just what's come out within the past week.

Other steps that must take place: the team will hold a season ticket drive to fill those MTS Centre seats, the NHL schedule needs to be wrapped up and the logistical effort of relocating a franchise must get underway. Plenty more to go in this story.

Check back with SB Nation Atlanta's frequently updated Thrashers sale StoryStream for the latest updates. For discussion, join Bird Watchers Anonymous, SB Nation's Atlanta Thrashers community or head to one of our 34 other hockey communities. For more hockey, visit SB Nation's NHL hub.

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Atlanta Thrashers Owner Michael Gearon On Sale: '80 Percent Complete'

FOX 5's Ken Rodriguez interviewed Atlanta Spirit Group member Michael Gearon on the Atlanta Thrashers sale to Winnipeg's True North. Unlike NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Gearon admits the deal is well on its way, saying it's "about 80 percent complete" without leaving open the possibility of a local buyer stepping up at the last minute.

Gearon told Rodriguez his group has only been negotiating with True North for 10 days, not months as Rodriguez and others have claimed. He also shot down reports of Anson Carter, Tom Glavine and Stephen Rollins having interest in purchasing the team and says at one point the ASG was only looking for a few seven-digit investors.

There's really nothing Gearon and company can say that will sway Atlanta hockey fans, but at least he's not stringing anybody along. 

Check back with SB Nation Atlanta's frequently updated Thrashers sale StoryStream for the latest updates. For discussion, join Bird Watchers Anonymous, SB Nation's Atlanta Thrashers community or head to one of our 34 other hockey communities. For more hockey, visit SB Nation's NHL hub.

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