Tag: True North

NHL in Winnipeg

Winnipeg Jets make their first pick and name official; No sight of new uniforms yet

For outsiders, the moment might have been a bit anticlimactic.  True North Sports and Entertainment executive Mark Chipman casually slipped “Jets” into Winnipeg’s team name before the team announced their first pick, confirming the rumors in the least bombastic way possible. Many probably believe that the new Jets were guilty of a “reach” with their first-ever first round draft as well, stunning some by selecting Mark Scheifele.

It was tough to elicit much more than a yawn when Scheifele was handed a ceremonial jersey, too. Instead of taking the opportunity to unveil an expected logo and uniform change, the Jets handed their first pick a generic jersey with the NHL logo. Perhaps it was a matter of red tape, but it left many people wondering about a missed marketing opportunity.

That being said, Jets fans (aka the group of people True North care about the most) probably don’t care that much; they are too busy celebrating the return of the NHL to their hockey-starved market. Many media members remarked that Minnesota felt more like Winnipeg tonight as “Go Jets Go” chants cascaded through the Xcel Energy Center. At times, the 2011 NHL Entry draft was another excuse to celebrate this dream-turned-reality for Winnipeg hockey fans.

True North made the move official, decided to name the team the Jets, added their new general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, hired their new coach Claude Noel and made Scheifele their first top pick in one break-neck month of activity. Now if they could just unveil those new sweaters …

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Winnipeg’s team name announcement should come today; Reports indicate it will be the Jets


During the “Drive to 13,” True North Sports and Entertainment implied that they would unveil Winnipeg’s new team name right after that sales drive was complete. That didn’t happen, of course, but there are rumblings that we’ll finally be able to fill in the blank sometime today.

The latest word from TSN is that True North plans to announce the new team name before making their first draft pick (the seventh selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft). Could the new team hand out jerseys with their new team logo during the draft itself? That much remains unclear, so we will just need to wait and see.

Want to let the hockey world know which team name would best fit this new Winnipeg club? Vote in this poll.

Update: If Elliotte Friedman of the CBC is correct, then the masses in Winnipeg will get what they wanted: to return of the Winnipeg Jets.

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

NHL in 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.

Even Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff doesn’t know what jersey he’s giving to draftees

Kevin Cheveldayoff

Winnipeg is busy taking care of business of late. They’ve picked a new general manager in Kevin Cheveldayoff, they’re in the process of picking out a new coach now that they’ve decided to move away from Craig Ramsay, and they’re still trying to figure out just what in the world they’re going to call the new team.

True North ownership is still deciding whether or not they’re going to go in their own direction to call the team the Moose, Polar Bears, Falcons, or some other team name or if they’ll adopt the moniker that helped put Winnipeg on the map and call the team the Jets. With that one decision still up in the air and the NHL Draft set to start on Friday night, things could get a little awkward when Winnipeg makes their first draft pick at seventh overall.

When it comes time for Kevin Cheveldayoff to make their pick, even he’s not sure just what kind of jersey and draft cap he’ll give to their first round pick.

A name and logo have yet to be unveiled for the team and it won’t necessarily happen before the weekend.

“Certainly there’ll be a sweater — whether it’s a team sweater or not, I guess that remains to be seen,” Cheveldayoff said Monday during a conference call with a handful of reporters. “There has been different discussions about what to do in the case of a sweater not being available.”

That might just be a bit awkward for whoever ends up being picked to go up to the stage, shake hands with the executives of the team, have the host of Winnipeg fans sure to crash the party in St. Paul, Minnesota going wild for him and… Wear a sweater with an NHL logo on it or a True North logo and feel at home.

While the guys at True North continue to sort through what they’re going to do, Tuesday shapes up to be a big day for them as the NHL Board of Governors will vote to approve the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers to True North and officially seal the deal for Winnipeg. After the fans met their goal of selling 13,000 tickets with flying colors, it’s expected that there won’t be any problems at all and the Board will approve everything.

Bettman says Atlanta franchise “wasn’t economically viable”

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One of the biggest complaints from Thrashers fans throughout the relocation process has been the perplexity around the sale of their franchise. While the NHL appeared to do everything in its power to ensure another season for the Coyotes in Arizona, the same dogged determinate was noticeably lacking in Atlanta. From an outsider, the road from sale, to purchase, to relocation seemed like a rushed affair that was little more than an afterthought. Once the city of Glendale stepped up to save the Coyotes for another season, the attention turned to Atlanta—and the deal was done before you could say “relocation fee.”

Today Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution had a length interview with the NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman regarding the sale and subsequent relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers. The great piece talked about the city of Glendale, the differences between the two situations (Coyotes vs. Thrashers), and any possible future for the NHL in Atlanta. Here are some of the highlights from Vivlamore’s interview with Bettman:

“In this case, the franchise wasn’t economically viable. We are not happy about it. The litmus test is: Does someone want to own the franchise? The Raine Group and current ownership were completely unsuccessful in their efforts to find a local buyer.”


We had high hopes in 1997. This is obviously not the result we envisioned or we wouldn’t have come. How we got to this position involves a number of issues and that’s why we find ourselves in the current situation.


We haven’t moved a franchise in 14 years. I think every other league has relocated a team in that span. Sometimes, as much as you hate to do it, it’s a reality. I don’t think it is a black eye on the league. I don’t think it’s a black eye on Atlanta.”

In classic Bettman form, he was able to answer just about every single question without really saying much of anything. He was willing to admit that Atlanta Spirit contributed to the team’s failure in Atlanta—but also stressed that there were a variety of reasons the team was sold to True North. Most importantly, he mentioned that the Atlanta Spirit Group had hired a firm to actively seek a buy for the franchise; since the Coyotes had not hired a firm pre-bankruptcy and were now owned by the league, they were looking for ownership groups on the team’s behalf. Some fans in Atlanta will say the team never truly looked aggressively for a local ownership—but the chance remains there were no qualified parties that were interested in the area.

Obviously, any league trying to exude stability will be hesitant to approve relocation. But as Bettman correctly states, they aren’t the only sports league that has seen teams move from city to city recently. Fans are quick to point out that the Thrashers and Coyotes are sunbelt teams that have struggled at the box office and to take root in the community. But for teams like Phoenix and formerly Atlanta, there are also success stories like the Nashville Predators and Carolina Hurricanes. Both have good attendance, are successful on the ice, and have seen hockey grow at the grassroots level in their markets. Atlanta’s major problem is that Atlanta Spirit Group didn’t help to grow the sport in the local market. Forget the team—they didn’t promote the sport.

As usual, the fans who believed in the sport (and their team) are the ones who lose in the deal. The fans who bought in to the idea that hockey could work in Atlanta, the ones who bought the tickets and merchandise; the fans who contributed the money that helped keep the team afloat for 14 years—the people who cared. Those are the people who lose when a team is relocated. For the rest of the sports fans in Atlanta, life goes on like nothing happened. In a way, they’re validated for never getting into the temporary,