After a busy couple of days* in the Atlanta Thrashers relocation story, it's probably time for somebody to check in with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. The commish was on Vancouver's TEAM 1040-AM during Wednesday night's game between the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks, insisting he's unaware of any deal between the Atlanta Spirit Group and True North that would send the Thrashers to Winnipeg. He OK'd the negotiations between the two, so he'd likely be among the first to know, after all.
Bettman, as transcribed by A.J. Perez of CBS Sports' Eye on Hockey blog:
There has been so much speculation. How many people in your line of work were reporting the Coyotes were going to Winnipeg? Where is that coming from? It's made up. It didn't happen. The minute the Coyotes made it clear they're staying, we're on to Atlanta. True North is going about their business and they're taking a businesslike approach. We are pleased with that, but there's nothing to report ... I never say never about anything. There is no deal right now.
I mean, yeah, technically there isn't a deal in place. It's nice to know Bettman is never-say-nevering the possibility of the team remaining in Atlanta, but the lack of any public show of support in Atlanta's favor on this matter still says all we need to know about the NHL's interests. They are indeed pleased with True North's businesslike approach, which is likely to result in a businesslike $60 million relocation fee into the pockets of NHL owners.
* Let's recap. Manitoba's government basically agreed to lending True North its support for -- wink wink -- upgrading Winnipeg's hockey facility. Long-sought Thrashers savior "The Balkan" was revealed to be J.B. Smith, a man whose reputation has raised more questions than answers, to be charitable. A local buyers group, believed to include NHL veteran Anson Carter, was dismissed by the team's most prominent beat writer. And some Thrashers fans are holding a rally/get-together/tailgate on Saturday that will be watched closely by many major news outlets, God help us.
Oh, and the Atlanta Hawks are technically on the block now, too, though quite a few don't believe they're actually up for sale. Oh, and Lil Jon is definitely, officially not buying the Thrashers.
Most people think the Thrashers will leave Atlanta next week. You're mostly caught up now.
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