The NHL announced that its Board of Governors officially approved the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers franchise to Winnipeg today. While most people probably look at this as a mere formality, it ultimately closes the door to the remaining Thrashers fans who were holding out hope that a miracle would keep their team in Georgia.
As expected, True North Sports and Entertainment becomes the official owner of the ex-Thrashers. The price followed the script too: the total sale was $170 million, with $110 million going to the Atlanta Spirit and a $60 million relocation fee paid to the NHL.
The league’s press release also confirmed the expectation that the unnamed Winnipeg team will remain in the Southeast Division with the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals. The Winnipeg team will then move to the Western Conference in the 2012-13 season, while it’s unclear which team will take its place in the East. (For discussion about division realignment, click here.)
True North executives were elated that everything is official.
“We are very honored by the NHL Board of Governors unanimous decision today,” said Mark Chipman, Chairman of the Board, True North Sports & Entertainment. “We know that the fans of this province have an appetite for NHL hockey that is rivaled by few in the league and intend to work very hard to make Manitobans proud of our franchise for years to come.”
“It’s a sad day for hockey fans in Atlanta, but the franchise is going to a good place and run by good people,” Thrashers president Don Waddell said. “I wish them well, because a lot of good people that are going to go with them.”
For NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s comments on the matter, read this post.
It’s a sad day for Thrashers fans and a great triumph for hockey-starved people in Winnipeg. Stay tuned over this summer as new GM Kevin Cheveldayoff narrows down a new coach, True North unveils the new name and many other developments chart the course for this relocated and drastically changing franchise.