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. Five cool things to do when it's hot outside


    Summer is not officially here, but it may as well be. School is out, vacations are coming, and it's time to enjoy the outdoors. Don't buy the argument that summer in Florida is too hot to get outside. There is plenty to do, and we'll prove it. Here are five cool things to do outdoors during another hot summer.

    Rainbow Springs State Park is a registered natural landmark. Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon is one several state parks with natural swimming holes in Florida. (Octavio Jones | Times)
  2. Rays morning after: A lot that went into a marathon win


    Rays manager Kevin Cash had a simple strategy when Fox Sports Sun's Alex Corddry asked him how the team would move on from Sunday's marathon win and get ready to face the Rangers tonight in Texas:

    Kevin Kiermaier of the Rays celebrates as teammate Michael Martinez slides safely into home plate to score a run against the Minnesota Twins during the 14th inning.
  3. Rays journal: Erasmo Ramirez ready to start a day after closing game

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — RHP Erasmo Ramirez was on the mound to finish Sunday's 15-inning marathon win over the Twins and will start tonight's game against the Rangers.

    The Rays’ Erasmo Ramirez throws 12 pitches in the 15th inning against the Twins to earn the save then says after the game that he’s ready to make his scheduled start against the Rangers: “My arm feels good.”
  4. Rays exhausted but happy after 15-inning win over Twins (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — Before the Rays eventually won Sunday's 6½-hour, 15-inning marathon against the Twins 8-6, they did plenty to lose it. And we need to get that out of the way first.

    The Rays’ Evan Longoria enjoys a laugh after scoring, barely, to tie it in the ninth on Steven Souza Jr.’s two-out single.
  5. Tom Jones' Two Cents: ABC's Indy 500 coverage is stellar again

    TV and Radio

    Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Takuma Sato left, celebrates after winning the Indianapolis 500 as Helio Castroneves is a little late passing him. ABC’s coverage of the race is stellar throughout, with plenty of extras but no fake drama.