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. me

    Ok, time for the tears of joy@

    May 31, 2011 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  2. you

    F the Atlanta Spirit and I hope nothing but pain and misfortune fall on Winnipeg. Gary Bettman should hang out up in the cool north more often because we will be roasting in hell for a long time.

    May 31, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • gojetsgo

      betman did the same thing to winnipeg in '96. There were loud boos today whenever he spoke at the press conference today. We've been waiting a long time for this.

      May 31, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. me

    no you, this is ATL's SECOND FAILURE!

    May 31, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • PaulMofATL

      The Flames were owned by real estate developer Tom Cousins who was having financial problems with his businesses when the Flames left town. The city was half the population than it is now. Bad ownership. Twice!

      May 31, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bob 2

    Let's hear it Ellis, did you learn some new vulgar words?

    May 31, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. lr

    @you This was the last thing Gary Bettman wanted to see...I love when he doesn't get his way

    May 31, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. bob

    Wow Im from Atlanta and didnt even know we had a team!!!

    May 31, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gorilla #8 mildly amused

      Ha!

      May 31, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bob 2

    Go for it Ellis, use your mother.

    May 31, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Us

    What the hell was a hockey team doing in Atlanta anyway.Now lets get some of those teams back for Quebec Hamilton maybe even Halifax.

    May 31, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gorilla #9 Devil's advocate

      Not just Canada. How about Hartford, Seattle, Portland, etc. Too many teams in southern markets that nobody cares about.

      May 31, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Craig from NS

      Halifax? Really? We have half the population required as a minimum to host an NHL franchise. We barely support the local junior team, more to the fault of its owner. Quebec and Hamilton ... yes. Halifax .... no.

      For all those expecting this move to fail; the Jets failed because of a weak Canadian dollar (players are paid in U.S. dollars) and the out of control salaries at the time. With a stronger Canadian dollar and the present salary cap, the team will thrive.

      It looks good on Bettman. The southern U.S. experiment is a failure and he should pay for it. If revenue sharing was spread out evenly instead of heading south of the border like it presently does, there would be a lot more Canadian teams in the league.

      May 31, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • closetiguana

      I agree with Gorilla #9. The Pacific Northwest needs more than 1 team.

      May 31, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. osama bin hidin

    i think every nhl team in the south or in a warm climate should move back to canada where they belong.. hockey in pheonix, LA, miami, san jose i mean come on really.. hockey and palm trees??

    May 31, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • ATL

      That's like saying all cold weather towns should give up their basketball and baseball teams.

      May 31, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. go jets go

    THIS IS THE GREATEST DAY OF MY LIFE!

    May 31, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Steven Gordon

    Hockey never really caught on in the South, which much prefers NASCAR anyway. I remember Columbus (Georgia) had a hockey team once...is it even still there?

    May 31, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • HH

      Yeah – Columbus still has the Cottonmouths – fun to go to a game from time to time

      May 31, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • NotYou

      Great job generalizing. We like baseball too.

      May 31, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steven Gordon

      @HH...thanks for the update. Living in San Antonio, I have compleptely lost touch with what's going on in CSG.

      @ NotYou: Yes. Baseball is also popular in the South. Atlanta Braves...

      May 31, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Gisabun

    This just in. Subject to the NHL board of directors. It's approved. No more Atlanta Thrashers [and their ugly uniform].

    I'm really shocked that Bettman would allow this. A US team moving to Canada.

    What they were doing in Atlanta, I have no idea. The idea is as bad as putting a baseball team in Alaska [to play at the President Sarah Palan Stadium – attendance capacity: 300 people].

    May 31, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bob 2

    @Ellis: I'm getting tired of waiting, I always look for your posts. I think you're the best vulgar blogger on CNN. Please entertain us with your posts.

    May 31, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Bob 2

    You're a sissy, tell us about your mommy and her big ass.

    May 31, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  15. John Fullerton

    Who cares they will no survice in Winnipeg. I give it 2 years

    May 31, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mickey

      They'll do a heck of a lot better in Winnipeg.

      May 31, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • gojetsgo

      as opposed to phoenix in the desert where they can't even give tickets away??? give me a break.

      May 31, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
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