Thursday night at Philips Arena before the Atlanta Hawks were eliminated, 11 Alive's Jeff Hullinger interviewed Bruce Levenson of the Atlanta Spirit Group, one of the Atlanta Thrashers many owners. The discussion, obviously, aimed to cover whether the team is set to move to Winnipeg, which involves Tom Glavine, the Atlanta government and the hunt for a local entity to buy the team.
Levenson appeared to stop just short of saying he regrets owning the Thrashers and expressed that the ASG has been trying to find a local buyer for a long time, at one point asking fans to send a potential business partner their way. Video below and a transcript after that:
JH: Are the Thrashers staying in Atlanta, or are they going to Winnipeg?
BL: Our job is to try and find a solution in Atlanta. That's what we've been working on for a long time, and that's what we continue to work on.
JH: Is the solution any closer today than it was a month or two ago?
BL: ... I don't think so, no.
JH: This group with Tom Glavine: are they a legitimate contender to try and get this club?
BL: I've never commented on anybody we're talking to. There's been an enormous amount of speculation for years, and I've never commented about speculation, so when we start talking to people we sign confidentiality agreements with them. And we always honor those confidentiality agreements.
JH: What's your drop-dead date on this? When do you say this has to --
BL: I don't have a drop-dead date.
JH: So you continue to have negotiations with other parties, without being specific?
BL: My job is to continue to find a buyer that will either buy all of it or, as Michael and I have indicated, we would be happy to retain an interest if that helps make the deal better. A for the course would be if we find a buyer who will keep this team in Atlanta, and that's our job. That's what we continue to work on.
JH: How about this scenario: the team stays here another year, you continue to shop it. Is that within the realm of possibilities now?
BL: That's a scenario we haven't even thought about. [LOL] We just continue to try to find somebody or a group of people who are interested in keeping this team here. We'll do everything we can to make that easy for them. We'll retain a portion of the equity if that's what they want. That's what we've been working on now for a long, long time.
JH: Everything that I read, it doesn't seem like Gary Bettman and the NHL want to passionately keep the franchise here. Am I wrong in that determination?
BL: Gary's first priority is always to keep teams where they are. Always.
JH: If you were a betting man: a year from today, are you standing here as owner of the Thrashers? [This appears to have come out wrong; Hullinger flinched as if he'd rather have asked whether the team will remain in Atlanta.]
BL: Well, no. I hope we find somebody who can come in and take either a controlling interest, or, if it's of their choosing, own the whole thing. We've been pretty clear about that for a long time.
JH: What would you like to say to fans right now that are listening to this and wondering where this all stands?
BL: ... If you know anybody who's interested, have them get in touch with us.
JH: Do you regret getting involved with this?
BL: ... That's a great question. There's been lots of highs, lots of lows. I'm disappointed that we haven't had more success with the Thrashers. I'm disappointed that we haven't had the kind of success that we've had with the Hawks. In the second round for the third straight year. There's only six teams left and we're one of them. That's what I'd hoped we'd be able to achieve for both teams.
JH: You think hockey can make it in Atlanta or should make it?
BL: I don't see why it can't. I really don't. We have a core of really passionate fans. I don't see why it can't make it.
JH: Has anybody locally tried to step up, like the mayor, maybe the governor, any government?
BL: The mayor's issued statements on this, and I'd rather he speak for himself. And I think he has.