In 1971 the National Hockey League announced the addition of yet another franchise, the Atlanta Flames, which at the time was about as south as the league was willing to venture. After years of poor attendance and even poorer play, the franchise relocated to Calgary in 1980. Almost 27 years later, the NHL awarded the city another franchise, in the hopes of a much more lucrative stay in one of the nations largest southern cities but it has been another disaster for the league and now it appears a relocation is imminent.
Throughout the entire season, one NHL club was fighting for their lives and had speculation surrounding a possible relocation to Winnipeg but that team wasn’t the Thrashers, it was the Phoenix Coyotes. Now the Coyotes appear to have fought off those rumors at least for another year and all the spotlight is on the Thrashers.
Rumors have been flying the past week that a deal could be in place to move the franchise north of the border to Winnipeg. The league, along with the Thrashers, have stated that they are focused on keeping the franchise in Atlanta, despite their financial struggles but according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday, a deal between the Thrashers and Winnipeg based True North Sports and Entertainment was in the works. They have stated publicly that if they purchased the franchise, they would move, giving Canada their seventh NHL franchise.
Wait, didn’t the Winnipeg experiment already fail, but yet they really want to give the team another shot at a franchise much like they did with Atlanta almost 15 years ago?
The Winnipeg Jets were joined the league in 1979, about the same time as the Flames were falling apart and lasted until 1996, when financial problems caused them to relocate to Phoenix. If the franchise does relocate, it has been stated from several sources that the team will not revert back to it’s old name – The Winnipeg Jets.
Thrashers' ownership acknowledged that they have been looking to sell the team for years, but were unable to do so thanks to a dispute with former co-owner Steve Belkin, which was finally settled last December. Winnipeg already has a brand new state of the art arena built that could house a team and seat a little over 15,000 people. The backers of True North include David Thomson, who’s grandfather founded the Thomson Reuters news service and is worth an estimated $23 billion according to Forbes.
If the Thrashers are to move before next season the clock is certainly ticking, since the league typically announces it’s schedule during the Stanley Cup Finals, not to mention season ticket holders get to pick their seat at Phillips Arena on May 21.
If a deal is in place and agreed upon, the league would still have to approve it, so although it is not looking good Thrashers fans, there is still a little bit of hope.
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