The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Atlanta Thrashers beat writer, Chris Vivlamore, was on the Toronto Fan 590 radio station's Hockey Central @ Noon show earlier Friday, describing the Thrashers' chances of being bought by True North and moving to Winnipeg as "95 percent." He also says he expects the relocation to happen next week. Here's the video of the interview, followed by a 95-percent or so transcript:
590: There's been a lot of siphoning of money out of there with this franchise, the Atlanta Thrashers. Is this the last weekend of NHL hockey in that area?
CV: It certainly looks like it's headed that way. I think it's premature to say it's going to happen this weekend. But I certainly expect if a sale and relocation's gonna happen, it probably happens next week.
590: The comment by Bill Daly, and then by the owner, saying, "If anybody knows of anybody who's interested, tell them to phone me ..." You typically don't hear an owner talk that way.
CV: They've been very public, even to me in February, saying there's a sense of urgency to get somebody in here that wants to purchase this team and keep it here. They've made no secret that the team is for sale, they've been trying for a long time. They've gone public a few times with a distress signal, quite frankly. Part of that is they knew that if something didn't happen in Phoenix, that was kind of a chip that was laying out there's a possibility. They've made no secret that they want to sell and that there's been nobody past the preliminary stages of interest.
590: We've watched the Phoenix thing unfold, and there's no doubt they would've been gone this year, maybe even a few years earlier if it wasn't for the politicians in Glendale and how adement they were to keep them. Where's the push in Atlanta?
CV: There is none down here, especially from the government. I've talked to the mayor's office and they've made it quite clear that this city has enough other issues that need to be taken care of. They're not gonna spend $25 million or so into keeping a hockey team here. There's a number of large corporations here; I know they've approached some of them, trying to drum up some kind of some kind of local presence but, again, it's just not materialized.
590: [Question about revenue. $50 million in losses per year?]
CV: I haven't heard that high of a number. The number that they'll float is $20 million. I've been told by some league officials that it's not that high. The organization owns the arena and the NBA team too. So while the hockey team gets no revenue, the losses on the books look bigger than they are for the entity as a whole.
590: [Question about lack of NHL politicking to keep the Thrashers in Atlanta, as was the case with the Phoenix Coyotes.]
CV: They will tell you -- they told us yesterday -- that they're working as hard behind the scenes here as they were in front of the scenes in Phoenix. The bottom line comes down to ownership. In Arizona you did have a civic entity that was willing to pay that much money and you don't here in Atlanta. As Bettman said the other day, that's why they left Winnipeg, and that's why they left Quebec City. You needed an owner that was willing to keep the team here.
[Discussion about why Phoenix is different, since it's owned by the NHL.]
590: [On TV markets.] What kind of impact have the Thrashers had as far as being a team that captured the market? Did they ever?
CV: Atlanta's a bigger market than Phoenix, television-wise. You guys know it's always gonna come down to winning or not. You can't make the playoffs once in 11 years and not even win a game and expect your fanbase to do anything but erode over that time. Atlanta's an interesting market, too. It's a bit fickle. I've worked in the New York market and the Philadelphia market before I came here. I understand. And here, there's four professional sports teams, the colleges are huge, there's so much. And if you're not winning, you're not high on the radar.
590: [Comparison to the Columbus Blue Jackets' lack of postseason success.] You can't really blame the fans. The fans have tried to support these franchises.
CV: It's not just the on-ice product. You've got owners that are suing each other. That's a big black eye, You've had draft failures. You've even had some tragedy.
590: [Anecdote about sitting in on a Board of Governors meeting in which the Thrashers owners worked in shifts.] Give me an idea, as someone who's there and covering the story, the chances of the Thrashers relocating to Winnipeg?
CV: If you asked my gut right now, it's 95 percent. I've been told by somebody else 98.9. Unless in the next few days, this thread of them getting somebody to pony up right quick, I just think the writing is on the wall.