NHL's Atlanta Thrashers set to move to Winnipeg
Atlanta Thrashers players celebrate a shootout win over the Ottawa Senators in March.
May 31st, 2011
01:45 PM ET

NHL's Atlanta Thrashers set to move to Winnipeg

[Updated at 1:45 p.m. ET] Atlanta will be losing a National Hockey League team for the second time, and Winnipeg, Manitoba, will be gaining one for the second time.

The new owner of the franchise, True North Sports and Entertainment, announced Tuesday that it has acquired the team from its current owners, Atlanta Spirit.

"I am excited beyond words" to make this announcement, True North CEO Mark Chipman said Tuesday.

The transaction is subject to the approval of the NHL Board of Governors later this month.

The Thrashers will be the second NHL franchise Atlanta has lost to Canada. The Flames moved to Calgary, Alberta, in 1980. Winnipeg lost its previous NHL team, the Jets, to Phoenix in 1996. The team was renamed the Coyotes in Phoenix.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman's words that hockey was stronger than ever in Canada sparked loud applause in Winnipeg. And then he said the words many residents of the city have been waiting to hear from the NHL:

"It's nice to be back in Winnipeg after all these years."

That sentiment was echoed by Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger.

"NHL - welcome home," he said. "It's great to have you back here where you belong. We've missed you, and we're going to make it work forever."

Bettman also had some words for Thrashers fans. He said the NHL doesn't like to move franchises unless it has to. And just like when the Jets were forced to leave Winnipeg in 1996, sometimes, "we simply don't have a choice."

"To fans in Atlanta, we are not happy about leaving Atlanta," he said. "Please be assured it was not about whether Winnipeg is better than Atlanta."

The Thrashers sent out an e-mail to fans thanking them for their support.

"It's extremely disappointing to all of us that [the sale] became necessary after all other options were exhausted," the e-mail said. "We want to express my gratitude to you, the fans, for the years of dedication to the Atlanta Thrashers.

But in Canada, where hockey is king, fans couldn't be happier.

Many are hoping the move can mean a return chance at cheering for the Jets, with the trending topic #gojetsgo picking up steam with the announcement. However, there has been no indication yet what the team would be named.

Chipman, who was involved with the effort to save the Jets years ago, said there is no doubt the loss affected the psyche of the town. But he is excited to bring the NHL back to the people of Winnipeg

And video around Winnipeg showed massive groups gathering at The Forks and other major areas, cheering, wearing Jets jerseys and chanting "Welcome back, welcome back" and "Go Jets, go."

"It's a fantastic day for the city, and I'm hoping, you know, for decades on, everybody will get to experience the NHL and the economic impact and the wonderful pride that comes with being a city that has the best of the best," Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz told the CBC.

soundoff (296 Responses)
  1. Ian

    This is a good start. My radical view on what hockey should do will never be adopted but I think they're missing a golden opportunity. It's big enough in Europe to be able to have teams there, but the talent pool isn't deep enough to add 8 new teams or anything like that. But if you'd kept say 14 or 16 teams in North America and then send the rest over to Europe, you could have duel leagues that only occasionally meet during the regular season, but the Stanley Cup finals becomes a trans atlantic fight.
    I'd say keep the original 6 where they are, but establish 8 canadian teams, keep 8 US teams in separate divisions. Have 8 slavic teams and 8 Scandinavian teams. The divisions would host one of the other divisions and travel to the other. So So if the NY Rangers host the Russian teams one season before the All Star break, they would travel to the Scandinavian division later. Then vice versa the following year.
    I think that the rivalries would be better as they are going to play each other more often, the US/Canada rivalry would be stronger, every Cup finals becomes an international affair. Which sounds more like a must see game: Chicago hosts Columbus again, or Chicago hosts Moscow, with the understanding that Moscow won't be coming back for two years.
    European players have the option of signing with their home teams, however they can be drafted anywhere.
    Are there problems? Sure. A lot of cities won't have teams anymore. There will be outrage in legitimate hockey towns like say St. Louis, or San Jose. Also if there are 8 teams and we have a concentration of east coast teams, the few remaining out west will have long flights. Colorado will be out there all alone. And it's going to be hard to follow a team playing on St. Petersburg time, so a true hockey nut probably won't get to see all the games.
    But look at the big picture. You'd have the first global league is sports. You will have insane levels of interest.
    But it'll never happen. Just my crazy vision.

    May 31, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ian

      *dual leagues. Not duel.

      May 31, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. steve mckiernan

    To bad he didnt want to bring the whalers back to hartford. The commissioner sees green or cadien moneyt

    May 31, 2011 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      To bad Hartford never saw a cup, Raleigh is an example of how to keep a hockey team in a small market area! They even got the minor league team to Charlotte. Atlanta was never a hockey city and it will never be, look at the population... I'm surprised CNN didn't invest any $$$$ in keeping the team there, their team is connected to the stadium!

      June 1, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Boris

    Gawd. Canada is even tolerant of Atlanta.

    May 31, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. LMNOP

    Well, if the Thrashers didn't stink I think Atlanta might actually care. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

    May 31, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
  5. countryboy

    Which team will move to the eastern confrence? http://WWW.CDBABY.COM/ALL/NUMONE bye now.

    June 1, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. countryboy

    We have the best team now what? http://WWW.CDBABY.COM/ALL/NUMONE bye now.

    June 1, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Rob M

    Man, I'd hate to see my team go to Canada. A few years ago when the Penguins almost went to Kentucky I was freaking out. Sorry to see you all go Thrashers!

    June 1, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Brad

    All of Atlanta's 28 hockey fans must be severely heartbroken.

    June 2, 2011 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
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