THRASHERS TO WINNIPEG?

 

"Just when you thought it was going to be the Coyotes moving back to Winnipeg, turns out it might be the Thrashers relocating instead." – Fleet Admiral Wanye von Gretz IV May 16, 2011.

The always observant Citizen of the Nation Oil Kings ‘n’ Pretty Things busted out a Hoorah in the comments section in a Lowetide article today with a link to the following article which was posted about half an hour ago as ‘Breaking News’ on the Winnipeg Free Press website:

"Atlanta Thrashers beat writer Chris Vivlamore is reporting that True North Sports and Entertainment is in negotiations with the Atlanta Spirit Group to purchase the Atlanta Thrashers. Vivlamore tweeted the following Monday morning.

"I have confirmed that the Atlanta Spirit and True North are in negotiations about sale and relocation of Thrashers. Story to come soon."

True North spokesman Scott Brown told the Free Press "no comment," as did NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly when confronted with this report."

EXPERT ANALYSIS

Reams of print and acres of digitial e-ink have been devoted to the woes off the ice in Phoenix in the past couple of years. The fact that the Thrashers could be this close to moving with substantially less fanfare speaks to the dire economic situation in many US markets than the popularity of NHL hockey south of the border.

In many markets it isn’t a case of hockey being an unsaleable product to Americans. Instead it has everything to do with the underpinnings of the economy coming undone in many of these cities.

The Georgian unemployment rate hit an all time high in January of 2011 at 10.4%. Considering the suspicious way that the Americans calculate these statistics – removing anyone who has been on the economic sidelines for several quarters in a row from the list of the unemployed – the number of unemployed could be substantially higher.

The long term unemployed has jumped by nearly half in the past year:

"There were 262,700 long-term unemployed Georgians in January — those who have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer. This marks a 47.1 percent jump over January 2010. The long-term unemployed now account for a record high 54.2 percent of the 484,668 jobless workers in Georgia."

The group that owns the Thrashers, the NBA Hawks and the arena have been piling up massive hockey related losses in recent years.

Says the National Post:

"The Atlanta Spirit group, which also owns the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena, has been looking to sell the Thrashers for years, claiming losses of $130 million US since it bought the team in September 2003. A viable local buyer has not yet emerged, sparking speculation that the team could be on the move."

The spotlight of the Canadian media following this story will shift from PHX  and will now fall squarely on ATL. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

  • John Chambers

    I prefer Manitoba Mounties, Manitoba Flood, or even Manitoba Moose to the Jets. A little more original and applicable. I always hated the Thrashers name. What is a “thrasher” anyways? Did anyone ever know? It’s too generic.

  • John Chambers

    Here’s an interesting factoid that I’m surprised hasn’t received more press attention, at least in Canada:

    Last week the NHL signed and agreement with NBC for their largest-ever TV deal. NBC merged with cable provider ComCast in January, 2011. ComCast has a major presence in Phoenix, and given the invention of a certain devices known as the internet and the PVR, sporting events have become a much more attractive property to television providers. Hence, NBC is likely heavily interested in keeping an NHL team in Phoneix.

    Atlanta is Time Warner Cable country. Moving a US based team to Canada isn’t optimal for NBC, but moving one from Atlanta instead of Phoenix is far less undesirable.

  • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

    @ Zarf

    Right on Brother. I agree whole heartedly. If my Oil aren’t in it, I can’t cheer for a Cdn team, esp one “in-division”.
    A.B.C. … anybody but Calgary, Canucks, Canadiens,and Centreoftheuniverse (err. the Leafs)
    We need to get the hate on again. Bring the cup back to Canada…puhlease. The next Canadian team to win the cup will be the Oil.

  • The three most interesting aspects of this story are:

    1) If Atlanta moves to Winnipeg, At least 3 divisions need to be realigned.

    Here’s how I see that changing:

    Western Conference:
    ——————-

    Columbus moves into the Atlantic or Southeast.

    Minnesota moves into the Central

    Winnipeg moves into the Northwest

    Eastern Conference:
    ——————-

    If Columbus moves to the Atlantic, a club needs to move from the Atlantic to the Southeast, with no easy answer.

    2) Once there’s an NHL team back in Winnipeg and Quebec City, where will other teams with severe financial losses threaten to move to?

    3) With a slate of games back on with Winnipeg, will that give the Oilers an easier travel schedule, which can show up in the standings?

    • fuck off

      You got one thing wrong: Detroit will be the mover to the East Conference as they have (most often privately) bemoaned being a part of the West for a long time.

  • 9 Inches Uncut

    And by the way, I never had any trouble hating ANY team that wasn’t the Oilers, no matter what part of the world they came from, although I occasionally have grudging respect for what teams might do against teams I REALLY hate (GO SHARKS!)

  • Wax Man Riley

    Just a thought, how could the NHL owners possibly be happy with ponying up millions just to keep things running in Phoenix? I mean, those are real dollars coming out of “real’ franchises, that is, the ten or so that are actually contributing to NHL coffers. Lets face it, in these economic times support in at least a dozen American franchises is tenuous, and in places like Tampa Bay and San Jose, it may be a mile wide right now, but for sure it is an inch deep. I suspect the high water mark for the NHL was reached a few years ago and what we are witnessing is the tide rolling out. I bet in a year or two, the NHL is going to be grateful there are fans in places like Winnipeg, and Quebec that are willing to shell out dollars for its product.

  • Wax Man Riley

    @bleedingoil

    I hear things like this all the time, so know that you aren’t alone, but this point of view on Bettman is ignorant.

    Before you get upset, I’m not saying I like the guy or the decisions he’s made. I don’t like the fact that the NHL is committed to the Southern Expansion. I’m an Alberta boy and I would love for Winnipeg, Hamilton, and Quebec to have franchises, and firmly believe Portland Oregon should have one too.

    The point, though, is that my opinion on the guy doesn’t matter. His job is not to make me happy, nor would it be the job of any other guy who fills the position when he is gone. His job is making the current owners of the existing NHL franchises happy; by all reports he has done that, because they just signed him to a 4 year contract extension.

    You think you have a problem with Bettman, but your real problem is with the collective mindset of the existing group of NHL owners, or at least some large collection of those owners who together have a controlling stake in the management of the league.

  • I’ll believe it when Gary Bettman shows up in Winnipeg to announce the franchise relocation, until then, it’s just a dream.

    It sucks, I was born in Quebec, Nordiques are gone. Raised in Manitoba, Jets are gone. Definitely hoping both Winnipeg and Quebec City get NHL franchises again in the future, just not holding my breath that it’ll happen any time soon.

  • Scott

    I’m from Edmonton through and through and I could give a rats ass about the Jets as they would be just another rival to get my hate on for. Everybody harping on Bettman seems to forget that he was at the helm when the Oilers were almost moved to Houston. To the present: the Oilers are here because a BUNCH of local guys scraped to put their money where their mouths were. If Winnipeg had done the same thing they would still have their team, that’s hardly Bettman’s fault. You want another team in Canada, that’s great but at least use facts in your arguements, not just stereopyical jokes because Bettman’s American.

    • bleedingoil

      Check your history………the fans, city, and province raised millions of dollars (13M I believe). The selling parties could not come to terms with the buying group. The transaction took place without any help from the nhl. Winnipegs average attendance was 13000………phoenix is 14000. 35000 fans showed up for a rally in 1995 winnipeg……..only 200 in phoenix. Winnipeg population is 684000…….glendale is 227000. Phoenix has never made money……ever, and every team in the league is footing the bill.

      • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

        Check my history? okay

        bleedingoil wrote:
        “the fans, city, and province raised millions of dollars (13M I believe). The selling parties could not come to terms with the buying group. The transaction took place without any help from the nhl.”

        I wrote:
        “the Oilers are here because a BUNCH of local guys scraped to put their money where their mouths were.”

        History checked.

        • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

          ok…….what you actually wrote that i was trying to point out was
          “If Winnipeg had done the same thing they would still have their team, that’s hardly Bettman’s fault. You want another team in Canada, that’s great but at least use facts in your arguements, not just stereopyical jokes because Bettman’s American.”

          I was pointing out that Winnipeg did do what a BUNCH of Edmontonians did. They did more than that. They did more than Glendale and Phoenix did. The difference is Bettman and his egoistical point of view. Gary came to us in 1993 as the first ever commissioner and within his first few years we lost 2 canadian franchises to the US, found 6 american ones and relocated Hartford. We have seen 2 lockouts, and 2 great Television deals to US markets that are blacked out in Canada. I live 10 hours away from Montreal and I cant watch some home games on NHL Center Ice because I live in their “home area” WHAT! and to ask someone else to back up a comment….of course Bettman will get voted back in for another term….24 of the 30 teams are American! Look at the NHL’s rosters…how many are American? It is a Canadian Game folks and Frodo Bettman is taking it away. He will do what he can to take it. The only reason we have the 6 franchises we do is because of the backing from ownership in each city. If the oilers fall on hard times and the city wants to foot the bill and lose MILLIONS of dollars every year, dont think for one minute we wont be haulin ass down to Houston. Bettman falls into the same category and Harold Ballard and Peter Pocklington. They are business men and that is it. The league and the players are employees and are only there to make money. How does the NHL make even more money? They sell adspace on the ice, boards and sell naming rights to rinks. Rink names change as often as rosters do. Soon we will start seeing adspace being sold on jerseys and a partnership with NASCAR (which i do love) The expansion has thinned out the talent, and spread out the wealth so much that some teams have as much as 15% salary on one player. We will never see a league like we had in the mid 80’s ever again. He needs to go.

    • bleedingoil

      Well said, sir.

      It seems to me that there’s been a bit of revisionist history when it comes to the Winnipeg Jets … and, for that matter, of the Canadian teams, in general.

      Twenty-five years ago, the Winnipeg Jets were the enemy. They were in the same division as Edmonton and there was never really any reason to root for them … other than against Calgary (fortunately for us Oiler fans, the Jets proved to be quite proficient at beating the Flames in the playoffs).

      And while I certainly don’t begrudge Jets’ fans their sentimental attachment to their team, I certainly had none myself.

      I think that’s a generational thing.

      Twenty-five years ago, there was seldom any talk of Canadians pulling for one Canadian team or another in the playoffs. That’s mostly because we all hated each other. It was wonderful.

      Still, I hope the Jets can come back to Winnipeg. I miss hating them.

      • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

        Agreed, Zarf. I wish nothing but continued failure and misery for all Canadian teams other than the Oilers. I don’t ever want thosse teams to relocate or anything like that…I love to hate them.

        I simply will not cheer for another Canadian team because these are the teams/fans that will throw it in our face until we win again. I have never bought into this “Canada’s team” garbage (the amount of Flames flags flying from cars in Edmonton during their run to the finals made me want to puke).

    • Scott

      SO what your saying is, because he assisted your team, it doesn’t matter what his track record is elsewhere?

      The point is, he picks and chooses how hard to fight to keep certain teams in their locales. IMO its based on how much media fanfare each city gets. Had Balsillie not tried to buy the coyotes, they would already be moved.

      • Scott

        Did I say that?

        All I said was use facts, instead of “I hate Gary Bettman because he came from the NBA or he’s American”. If you can’t stand Bettman because he couldn’t find 30 guys to foot the bill for the Jets then say that, don’t say he’s a moron who’s trying to shape the puck into an inflated sphere…I get it’s a joke, and I don’t think I’m being oversensitive here as it’s a pretty common argument and this is the first I’ve mentioned it. While we see many struggling franchises, who am I to comment who has a right to a team, I’m just fortunate that 30 guys kept my team for me. While Bettman has surely made mistakes he must be making someone happy as he’s been at this for close to two decades. Which is something I cannot say for Balsillie.

  • Oh, he still hasnt announced his attempted purchase of the KHL, the use of a larger and heavier puck, and even a shot clock.

    If Bettman institutes a 3 point line, I’m flying to New York myself where my boot will commit a technical foul on his back court if you catch my meaning.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    The Sad thing if they did move would be that Phoenix owns the “Jets” Name so the new owner would have to buy the rights or come up with a new name. I suspect the latter would be the case as people would come to the rink in either case. I would hope they would stick with the military airplane theme or in some way show a link to the Jets history. It would be cool to have a link to the Avro Arrow or some very Canadian Jet. Will be cool if that rivalry returns they were fun to watch in the playoffs, I miss that!

  • 9 Inches Uncut

    City of Atlanta isn’t willing to pay the NHL to keep the team in the city unlike Glendale that seems to think giving the NHL millions to keep a team nobody cares about in Phoenix.

    If Glendale wasn’t ponying up cash for the Coyotes, you wouldn’t see Bettman fighting so hard to keep them there.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I think they should sit tight for one more year and wait for the Coyotes. Many more ties with that franchise and the fans compared to the Thrashers.

    Rather than taking what Bettmen needs to move at this time, True North should wait for their first choice rather than settling for plan B.

    • Actually, most of my friends in Winnipeg would rather have the Thrashers instead of the Coyotes.

      Fresh start, new name, new jerseys, ect.

      I grew up a die hard Jets fan, but to be honest they didn’t have the best history…

      Kinda like being an Expos fan hey Lowetide?

    • Bettman would NEVER let that happen. Once TrueNorth gets their team, plans will be underway to relocate Phoenix….and I bet you they stay south of the border ( Kansas City, Las Vegas, Portland, Seattle, Salt Lake City….) too many more straws to grab first. Oh, he still hasnt announced his attempted purchase of the KHL, the use of a larger and heavier puck, and even a shot clock.
      This guy needs to go. I could go on and on and on but the NHL is not about Bettman.

    • I think that Glendale is prepared to spend every last dime in the City’s coffers to keep the team around. As close as WPG is to getting the Coyotes, it isn’t as though they are going call them the Jets and reclaim all the past glories.

      The goal should be get an NHL team ASAP imho.

      @Scott

      I think that the publicity of the NHL teams having to pull up stakes and move north is certainly bad for NHL business. But the bulk of these issues are caused by the severe downturn in the US economy that isn’t improving contrary to what we are being told in many cases.

      No amount of PR can change that.

    • Sanintarious

      I think if the opportunity is there to cash in on a team now, they will take it. Anything could happen by next year and I don’t think TN would be too happy if they waited on Phoenix another year just to see them AND Atlanta find new owners.

  • Scott

    When the same company owns the arena and the team, I wonder how much of “extra” costs are included in the Thrashers books to showcase the success of the hawks?

    This just helps their cause for trying to get rid of the team. I’m sure rent for the Thrashers was substantially higher than for the Hawks.

    • Thats a good call. Thrashers lose 130 million since 2003. In better news the Hawks are printing money and the arena is making its debt payments.

      Having done some quick research into the ATL economy I would bet that while things might be clouded with some accounting practices the team is losing piles of cash. The scattered fans in the building during games all but confirms it.