There have been rampant rumors that the Atlanta Thrashers will be sold and relocated to the wonderful world of Winnipeg, but folks north of the border should curb their enthusiasm.
The rumor is simple: True North executives, plus another unnamed investor, have bought (or will buy) the Atlanta Thrashers and move them to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada as early as next season. There will be some sort of pow-wow post-Olympics to announce this move to the world.
The reason why this rumor is rampant is also simple: In their past three failures to move a U.S.-based team to Canada (Pittsburgh, Nashville, Phoenix), the folks north of the border have grown quite anxious and at many times totally belligerent about the lack of NHL teams in Canadian cities. Admittedly, I can understand these sentiments to a degree. Hockey is Canada's game, and there are cities in Canada (as well as the US) that deserve NHL teams.
Now for the nitty-gritty that nobody wants to care about, but should:
Q: How much debt have the Atlanta Spirit partners accrued in their tenure as Thrashers owners?
A: Zero. The team pays its bills and is entirely debt free.
Q: Do The Thrashers and Atlanta Hawks (NBA) have a joint lease agreement at Phillips Arena?
A: Yes. Both teams must occupy Philips Arena for their home games in order for the lease to be valid. If one leaves, the other can no longer play in the arena. Seeing that the Hawks are becoming a profitable contender in the NBA, I doubt the Atlanta Spirit will sell them along with the Thrashers. Nor will they mire themselves in court for more time than they already have just to re-negotiate the lease deal. Copy that one down.
Q: Does Winnipeg have an NHL-ready arena?
Q: What was Winnipeg's average attendance for Jets games in it's final 7 years of existence?
A: 12,878 out of a maximum capacity of 15,565. Consistently in the cellar of league averages for those 7 years.
Q: Do the Thrashers have a written agreement with the NHL in regards to keeping the Thrashers in Atlanta for at least a given amount of years?
Q: How many years are left on that written agreement?
A: Thrashers GM Don Waddell: “Multiple.”
Q: What did the True North executives say about the rumor?
A: “Patently False”
Q: What did Gary Bettman, the Commissioner of the NHL, say about the Thrashers franchise?
A: In an interview with Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jeff Shultz: “We think it's very important for the league and we believe the issues the Franchise has can be overcome. We have a strong franchise of addressing problems and not abandoning cities. Look at Phoenix. Look at Buffalo, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Nashville. They've all had problems, but they've been successful. When the ownership situation is resolved, we believe the franchise will be able to move forward. We're committed to the market.”
Q: What MAJOR media outlet has helped circulate this rumor?
A: None. Not even TSN. Why? Because it just isn't so.
You can drop this Winnipeg rumor like a bad habit. Just don't shoot me, I'm only the messenger.
About the Author
Written by Kevin Thurston