The rumor mill regarding the Atlanta Thrashers’ possible move to Winnipeg keeps humming along and the NHL did little to slow it down today. When asked about relocation, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly didn’t confirm the rumors. Yet a lot might be read into the fact that he didn’t really deny the possibility of a move, either.
To catch you up to speed quickly, the Thrashers have emerged as Winnipeg’s Plan B for a returning NHL franchise after the City of Glendale managed to keep the Phoenix Coyotes for at least one more season. While Thrashers fans wait nervously to find out if the team will remain in Atlanta, city officials admitted that they wouldn’t be able to swing the same $25 million deal to keep the Thrashers from moving that Glendale made to retain the Coyotes.
To many, there is a severe gap in desperation from the league’s efforts to keep the two teams from moving. Here’s what Daly said about the Thrashers’ situation and part of the reason why the two scenarios aren’t directly comparable. (Source: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.)
Q: Can you guarantee the team will be in Atlanta next season?
A: “Nope. I can’t guarantee that.”
Q: Can you address rumors that a franchise sale and a move to Winnipeg is pretty much done and that an announcement is imminent?
A: “There is nothing that has been done, nothing has been planned and nothing has been scheduled. Certainly, no transaction has been agreed to, not that I’m aware of.”
Q: You and commissioner Gary Bettman both made frequent trips to Phoenix to speak publicly about the Coyotes staying there, but there has been no similar efforts in Atlanta. Why not?
A: “The situations are very different from a host of perspectives, but not the least of which are the bankruptcy issues we had [in Phoenix], the fight in bankruptcy court and the league having to purchase the club. There were a unique set of circumstances that required the league’s presence in Glendale. The bottom line is, we owned that club.”
Q: I understand that. But does that preclude you or Gary from coming to Atlanta to show support for the franchise and help the process?
A: “No, of course not. If there was some reasonable sense that a public appeal would move the process along, then something would be done. But we’re not at that point.”
If this situation escalates as much as rumors suggest, it might be true that the NHL is beyond “that point.” It might take until after the Stanley Cup finals have been completed or perhaps a bit longer to find out the truth, but either way, we’ll let you know what happens.