NHL in Winnipeg

NHL Board of Governors officially approve Atlanta Thrashers’ relocation to Winnipeg


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.”

Naturally, there was more than a bit of sadness on the Thrashers’ side.

“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.

After years of hype, McDavid to play first NHL game

Connor McDavid
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The hype surrounding Connor McDavid couldn’t be much greater, but finally expectations will start to give way to results.

The NHL career that’s been talked about for years will begin tonight when his Edmonton Oilers face St. Louis.

“It’s something that you dream of for so long,” McDavid told NHL.com. “The draft is one thing, but to finally be in this situation is another, so I’m really excited. It’s been a long road; it’s been a lot of hard work. I think a lot of guys’ stories are different in how they get here, but the one common theme is hard work and my story is not any different that way.”

McDavid has transformed the Oilers with his mere presence. Its breathed fresh optimism into a city that have watched this team struggle in its efforts to dig out of the NHL basement. One also has to wonder if Peter Chiarelli would be the team’s new general manager and Todd McLellan its new head coach if Edmonton hadn’t won the draft lottery.

But where will he lead Edmonton? Will he be just the sixth 70-point rookie of the salary cap era? Will he struggle out of the gate, putting the hype into question? Perhaps he’ll draw comparisons to Steven Stamkos, who had a modest rookie campaign by the standards of a highly regarded top pick, but has nevertheless gone on to become a superstar.

That would surprise Stamkos as the Lightning captain feels McDavid is better than he is currently. Just further proof that those lofty expectations are coming from all sides.

“You don’t want to put too much weight on his shoulders; he’s an 18-year-old kid,” Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said. “I don’t care how good he is or how good he’ll be, it’s a lot to shoulder if you’re supposed to be the guy and you’re the only guy. Fortunately we have a lot of high-pedigree players that are high picks who have gone through similar situations that he’s going through.”

Edmonton certainly has no shortage of first overall picks, but none as highly regarded as McDavid. But then, few ever are.

Related: There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

Connor McDavid
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Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.

Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per NHL.com. “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”

The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.

Eichel front page

Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.

But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.

“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.

“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”