Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Atlanta Thrashers sale, move to Winnipeg set; how it affects divisional rival Tampa Bay Lightning

Winnipeg hockey fans celebrate in the streets after the announcement that the NHL will return to their city next season.

Associated Press

Winnipeg hockey fans celebrate in the streets after the announcement that the NHL will return to their city next season.

ATLANTA — There was little reaction in this city to the news Tuesday the Thrashers were sold to a Winnipeg group that will move the team to that city, other than a tearful news conference held by outgoing co-owner Michael Gearon.

Gearon said the ownership group, which also controls the NBA's Hawks and Philips Arena, did all it could to find someone who would help keep the financially ailing team in the city but no one made a serious offer.

"To be sitting here today is just awful for me," said Gearon, who broke down several times as he met with a small group of media at the arena.

The Winnipeg group, True North Sports and Entertainment, announced the deal at a news conference at the city's MTS Centre, where the team will play. The news sparked a raucous celebration in Manitoba's largest city, which rejoins the league after losing the Jets to Phoenix in 1996. No decision has been announced on the team's name.

The league's owners must approve the sale and relocation, but that's expected to be a formality at a June 21 meeting. The deal is reportedly worth $170 million, including a $60 million relocation fee the other owners would split.

"It's nice to be back in Winnipeg after all these years," said commissioner Gary Bettman at the Winnipeg news conference.

The relocation was allowed only after the Atlanta ownership decided to sell even if meant the team's departure, he said. "We don't like to move a franchise. We're not happy about leaving Atlanta," he said.

The Atlanta owners were heavily criticized for how they ran the Thrashers, who made one playoff appearance in 11 seasons and didn't win a playoff game. The owners were plagued by financial problems, and attendance became a major issue. The team averaged fewer than 14,000 a game this season, 28th out of 30 teams.

The news was bittersweet for the players. They thanked the Atlanta fans on Twitter and in the media, and said they felt bad for them but were excited about playing in Canada.

"It's four sports in Atlanta, and we were No. 4, I think," said Czech goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who has made all 119 of his career appearance as a Thrasher. He told the Canadian Press he likes Atlanta but "the people … like baseball, they like American football. … Everyone knows we had problems (getting) the fans to watch our games. I think for hockey it's a good thing."

lightning connections: The move is expected to result in some conference-division realignment but not for next season. The team is expected to play 2011-12 in the Eastern Conference's Southeast Division with the Lightning and move in 2012-13 to a geographically friendly division in the West. One team from the West then is expected to move to the East (candidates mentioned are Nashville, Detroit and Columbus), but the league is keeping its realignment options open. … The Lightning said a preseason game scheduled in Winnipeg next season will not happen.

Times staff writer Damian Cristodero contributed to this report.


Previous NHL teams to relocate

Season Move

1997-98 Hartford Whalers become Carolina Hurricanes

1996-97 Winnipeg Jets become Phoenix Coyotes

1995-96 Quebec Nordiques become Colorado Avalanche

1993-94 Minnesota North Stars become Dallas Stars

1981-82 Colorado Rockies become New Jersey Devils

1980-81 Atlanta Flames become Calgary Flames

1978-79 Cleveland Barons franchise merges

with Minnesota North Stars

1976-77 California Seals become Cleveland Barons

1976-77 Kansas City Scouts become Colorado Rockies

Atlanta Thrashers sale, move to Winnipeg set; how it affects divisional rival Tampa Bay Lightning 05/31/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 1, 2011 12:19am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Gators rally past Kentucky, streak hits 31


    LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second week in a row, Florida found itself storming the field in a game that came down to the last second. A 57-yard field-goal attempt by Kentucky kicker Austin MacGinnis came just a few feet short of making history and snapping a 30-year losing streak, as the No. 20 Gators escaped a …

    Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Lexington, Ky.
  2. Pen makes it way too interesting as Rays hang on for 9-6 win


    A couple of home runs provided the news pegs of the night for the Rays, but it was more topical to talk about what nearly happened as they hung on for a 9-6 win over the Orioles.

    Lucas Duda's three-run homer in the third inning was the Rays' record-breaking 217th of the season, as well as his …

  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    RHP Jake Odorizzi admitted he probably should have gone on the DL sooner than late July for the back stiffness that was keeping him from throwing the ball where he wanted to. He has since found an impressive groove, with another strong outing Saturday.

  4. Matt Baker's takeaways from Florida State-N.C. State


    RB Cam Akers still looks like a former high school quarterback at times. His first two touches (30 yards) were special, but the freshman juked instead of powering ahead on his third (an unsuccessful third-and-1 rush). That's why the Seminoles are easing him in, as they did with Dalvin Cook three years ago.

    Running back Cam Akers carries for a first down during the third quarter as FSU eases the freshman into the college game.
  5. An attempt to project what Rays will look like in 2018

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — We know what the Rays look like this year: a team that had enough talent but too many flaws, in construction and performance, and in the next few days will be officially eliminated from a wild-card race it had a chance to win but let slip away.

    Adeiny Hechavarria, high-fiving Lucas Duda, seems likely to be brought back.