Tag: David Thomson

Kevin Cheveldayoff

Winnipeg GM has some work left to do


Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has some work to get done this summer.

The team hasn’t been overly active in free agency and perhaps that’s because they’ve got five key restricted free agents to get signed. Those five, who all filed for arbitration last week, include Blake Wheeler, Zach Bogosian, Bryan Little, Eric Tangradi, and Paul Postma.

Of that bunch, Little and Wheeler are two-thirds of their first line and Bogosian is a top-pair defenseman. Those are some potentially very costly contracts to get worked out. As Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe says, Cheveldayoff has no choice but open up the wallet to make sure these guys are taken care of.

According to CapGeek.com, Winnipeg currently has the second-lowest payroll in the NHL at $45.8 million. Only the Islanders have a lower mark.

Jets owner David Thomson is one of the wealthiest people in North America. These signings will get done but you wonder why things play out like this.

Winnipeg fans next goal? Sell 13,000 season tickets

Winnipeg Thrashers Hockey

While the euphoria will continue in Winnipeg for the foreseeable future now that True North has announced they’re buying the Atlanta Thrashers and moving them to Manitoba, fans there have a job to do ahead of the NHL Board of Governors meeting on June 21.

While the Board of Governors will meet that day to officially approve the sale and relocation of the Thrashers, it’ll be up to Winnipeg fans to help convince them that they’re a more than viable location for an NHL team. How does one do that? True North wants to make it happen by selling 13,000 season tickets.

During the press conference, True North revealed a website, DriveTo13.com,  to point fans toward to help them plunk down their money towards securing the future of the team in the city as well as showing the NHL they’re not screwing around. Of course, that all comes at a price, and in this case a commitment of time as well as money. Here’s how things break down:

As you can see, there’s an added tweak to the pricing in that for the best seats in the house, to get a season ticket package you’ll have to commit to them for up to five years. Even for the worst seats in the MTS Centre you’ll need to buy in for three years. At least there you can get a half-season package but still… Whether it’s three or five years you’re asking for a lot of time and especially money from fans. If you want a pair of tickets in the top priced seats you’ll need to pay up $58,050 to do that. Needing to throw down $1,000 right off the bat hurts too.

Even for fans willing to get a pair of seats in the “worst” seats in MTS Centre that will cost $10,530 for the three year commitment. We’re figuring buying a pair of seats is more likely than just a single seat so that’s why we’re measuring the numbers out that way. Obviously if you want just the one ticket number is, cut the figure in half.

Fans in Winnipeg have gotten used to AHL prices over the last 15 years with the Manitoba Moose so there’s legitimate concern that the sticker shock will stun some fans into backing off of buying tickets. Doing that, however, might give the Board of Governors reason to pause on approving the sale.

The other part of the team going to Winnipeg is need to prove it’s a viable market for the NHL. Since the MTS Centre is set to be the smallest venue in the NHL next season, they’ll virtually need to be sold out nightly for the team to not end up another potential financial mess. Of course, that possibility is lessened by having billionaire David Thomson involved with the True North group.

For years the fans in Winnipeg have clamored for the return of the NHL, now it’s their turn to put their money where their mouth is. Only thing we wonder about is just how fast they’ll get to 13,000 tickets sold.

It’s official: Atlanta Thrashers to be sold to True North Sports and Entertainment, moved to Winnipeg

Thrashers Future Hockey

After 15 years without the NHL, what was once thought of as a lost hope for fans in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada is finally becoming a reality.

True North Sports and Entertainment has called a joint press conference with the NHL for noon Eastern time to announce the agreement between True North and the Atlanta Spirit Group to purchase the Atlanta Thrashers and relocate the team to Winnipeg. True North is spearheaded by Mark Chipman and David Thomson giving the franchise a pair of very wealthy and very financially stable owners, something the Thrashers haven’t had in at least four years.

While this is just an agreement between the two sides, the final approval must be given by the NHL Board of Governors on June 21 when they gather to meet. It’s expected that the sale will be approved quickly and officially putting the moving trucks on their way to central Canada.

Relocation is something we haven’t seen happen in the NHL since the Hartford Whalers moved to North Carolina so you’ll have to forgive everyone if this move opens up a lot of old wounds. The Thrashers move to Winnipeg will likely mean the team won’t be called the “Jets.” There’s much speculation roaming around that the team will continue to carry the moniker of the AHL team that’s been in Winnipeg for the last few years and go by the name Manitoba Moose. We’ll likely find more out about that today. We’ll also be criticizing True North for that should it come to pass.

The team is also likely to stay in the Southeast Division this year and for one season, teams in the Eastern Conference are going to be hazed with at least two trips to Winnipeg. The divisional rivals of the Thrashers will get to experience the joys of mid-winter Winnipeg three times during the year. This also means that Winnipeg will be hitting the road a lot and none of those trips will be like the relatively short one they can look forward to in two seasons that would see them travel six hours south to St. Paul, Minnesota. Instead, Winnipeg will by flying south and east a lot. Perhaps they should name the team the Jets just for irony’s sake.

Then there’s the whole part of this that centers around NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Bettman pledged countless promises to help keep the Coyotes in Arizona, even making sure the NHL protected the team by buying it out of bankruptcy from Jerry Moyes. The Thrashers have been dealing with an ownership boondoggle for the last few years without so much as a pat on the back to support them in their efforts.

After all, Bettman went and found Jeff Vinnik to purchase the Lightning away from the nightmare pair of Len Barrie and Oren Koules as they were busy turning Tampa Bay into a nightmare scenario. He also stuck up for Nashville when Jim Balsillie was trying to work his money magic there and Boots Del Biaggio was scamming his way into a minority ownership with the team as well. As far as we know, none of that kind of help came along for Atlanta and their horrible ownership by Atlanta Spirit Group. For all that Bettman’s done to try and expand the NHL’s grip into new, non-traditional hockey markets his failing in doing something to ensure a team stays in Atlanta will be criticized. Seeing the Thrashers be the team that moves out of the south and into Winnipeg just makes the situation all the more twisted.

How things will differ in Winnipeg from Atlanta, the answer is simple. Fans in Winnipeg have been bottled up for years since seeing the Jets flee town and the support they’ll give to their new team will be unlike anything the Thrashers ever saw in Atlanta. That’s a good thing for them and for the players who have been playing in front of quiet arenas most of their careers in the south. They’re also going to sell a lot of tickets at the MTS Centre. While the building will be the smallest in the league, they’re likely going to sell out everything – something they couldn’t do in Atlanta.

It’s a sad day for any team that relocates because it means there are fans being left behind that loved a team that won’t have it anymore. While we’re happy for those fans in Winnipeg that had their hearts ripped out 15 years ago, we’re sad for those in Atlanta who did love the team and the game. Those fans are the ones getting royally boned over because now they’ll see their former team move somewhere else with a new, rich owner who’ll lavish them with the attention they wished they would’ve gotten in the first place in Atlanta.

Former Winnipeg Jet Luciano Borsato believes a new team can work in Winnipeg

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In all the hustle and bustle surrounding the potential relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg one of the debates raging on centers around whether or not the NHL can work there this time around. After all, the financial climate now is quite a bit different in 2011 than it was in 1996 when the Winnipeg Jets left Manitoba, Canada for Phoenix, Arizona.

While that aspect can be debated as to whether or not Winnipeg NHL fans will shell out the bucks necessary to keep a team fat and happy these days, one aspect that doesn’t seem to be questioned very much is how the fans will take to a new team. While you can talk to any number of fans in Winnipeg and get euphoric statements confirming they’ll love their potential new franchise, talking to one former Jets player helps you really believe that’ll be the case.

Luciano Borsato played for the Winnipeg Jets for five seasons in the 1990’s before moving on to play in Germany the season when the Jets departed for Phoenix. Now retired from hockey and working as an online marketer, the Canadian-born Clarkson University graduate believes that if the NHL returns to Winnipeg it will be a huge success based on how great it was while he was there.

“I have fond memories of Winnipeg. Like most Canadian kids, playing in a Canadian NHL city was a dream for me. Winnipeggers loved the team and supported us enthusiastically — the playoff white-outs with over 16,000 fans showing their unity all dressed in white would send shivers down your spine,” Borsato said.

“I hope they create that same atmosphere for every game during the regular season as well, as it was a great feeling for the players to see that support. But more than just that, I actually got to know many fans and families in the city and would be invited to their homes, restaurants and businesses regularly. That was my most personal impression of Winnipeg.”

That sort of intimate setting in Winnipeg might give some players reason to pause. After all, Winnipeg is a small city with a population between 600,000 and 700,000 people. When you compare that to Canadian cities like Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver it’s minuscule. Compared to a similar NHL city like Edmonton and it’s right on par.

Can it work though? Borsato thinks that with the way the NHL is set up these days it can.

“Yes, I think it can work, under certain conditions. The biggest factor would be finding wealthy owners willing to not only bring the team to Winnipeg, but be prepared to absorb losses over the years. That seems to have been accomplished with the Thomson family. Due to the fluctuations in the floor of the salary cap since it was introduced, this would be the most important factor from a new owner’s perspective,” Borsato says.

In 2005, the first salary cap was $39 million with the salary floor set just over $21 million. This season, the cap is $59.4 million, with the floor now doubled to $43.4 million. Meanwhile, next season it’s believed that the salary cap will go up over $62 million and bring the floor up once again. With the salary cap tied to revenues it’s a good sign for the league to see they can keep juicing the cap. On the downside, all teams have to spend more money. Having a deep pocketed owner helps solve these issues. As for Winnipeg itself, Borsato’s sold on the fans and the market.

“From what I’ve read, Winnipeg is doing quite well economically and we all hope it continues. With the solid new fan base from the Moose and the excitement of the NHL returning, I’d like to think a new NHL team would be a great catalyst for the city.”

With the serious talk out of the way, the one lingering major debate left hinges on what to call the potential new Winnipeg franchise. We asked Borsato if he’d like to see the Jets name be resurrected or should the new franchise carve its own identity separate from the Jets legacy. His thoughts are most intriguing.

“Personally, yes. It’s nice to say you played in a city and for a team that is currently in the NHL. Having said that, the original Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes franchise would be a separate entity from a modern Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg franchise, with a different set of records, players, etc. As a business, it would make sense for a new name to be chosen, but I, and most of the former players, would be more than happy to see the Jets name back.”

We’ll find out in the coming days and weeks whether or not the new Winnipeg team will be the Jets or the Moose or any number of other possible names, but one thing’s for sure the memories of the Jets and the run they had originally in Winnipeg has everyone remembering the way it used to be fondly.

Atlanta mayor saddened by potential of losing Thrashers to Winnipeg

Thrashers Flagging Fans

Whenever there’s talk of a sports team relocating it provides the local politicians  the opportunity to address their constituents who have one particular focused interest. With the Coyotes situation in Phoenix and Glendale, Arizona the talk of that team potentially being sold and moved brought more than enough attention for the members of the Glendale city council.

In Atlanta where the Thrashers appear to be on the brink of being sold and headed off to Winnipeg, Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed isn’t quite going to the same lengths to grab the spotlight that such a situation might dictate. While we saw so much action in favor of keeping the team in Arizona, Reed’s words today about the possibility of the Thrashers leaving town gives you a good idea of how difficult times are in Atlanta.

“We have not yet had any of the individuals in our community prepared to take that on, but it’s not for a lack of trying,” Mayor Reed said.

The current owners, the Atlanta Spirit Group, are negotiating a possible sale to True North Sports, which would move the team to Winnipeg for the 2011-12 season.

“Anytime we lose a major sports franchise, it’s tough,” Reed told 11Alive News on Tuesday. “It’s going to hurt the city, but we’ll withstand it and get through it. We have a lot of positive things going on in the sports franchise space that we’ll be announcing soon.”

That last quote from Mayor Reed seems to point towards an eventuality that we’re all assuming is going to happen. After all, if the mayor says they’ve got plans already set to go… Well, what’s the hold up then? That hold up is the ongoing negotiations going on between True North Sports and Entertainment and Atlanta Spirit Group.

With the way things are shaping up there and the speculation running wild all over the Internet, the announcement of a deal being done in the very near future seems likely. We’re not about to go pinning a date on things, but don’t be shocked if something is done before this week is out.