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. Gorilla #7 Chewing on a hockey puck

    They will not be missed in Atlanta. They will be loved in Winnipeg. It's a no brainer.

    May 31, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bernaba

    Sorry to see the US lose a hockey team. I disagree with those who say warm climate cities don't deserve hockey teams. I live in NC and hockey fans in Carolina heavily support the Carolina Hurricanes. I've even had Canadians coming to games compliment us in how much support we give and how much fun it is to come to the games in Raleigh. Evidently the games here – our fans don't act like morons mistreating opposing fans who display their team jersey's, we don't get into fights, and we try to have a more family friendly atmosphere. So for those of you, whether you are from the Northern US, or Canadian, I hate to tell you some of your visiting fans actually prefer and enjoy coming to games in our southern town because we know how to treat the players as well as the fans.

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

      I miss Big Buff 🙁

      May 31, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jonathan

      Bernaba: It just seems hard to me to understand how a team can be supported all that well when there really isn't a local connection to the sport. It becomes a novelty item which becomes fleeting in terms of support. I don't say that as a negative to the people of Atlanta or other 'sun belt' cities, just a marketing reality. Football has a very strong following, and that leads to a 'connection' to the sport and increased interest. Now that doesn't make it impossible to sustain a team, just a lot more difficult.

      May 31, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bob 2

    Ellis, don't you have a new repertoire? You said you were going to post new and heavy stuff. Where is it?

    May 31, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  4. seemstomeguy

    Seems to me, atlanta's not a good place for hockey. Seems to me.

    May 31, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. The Drew Roberts Show

    I'm still waiting for the Edmonton team to move to Houston. Yes, waiting for a return of the Houston Oilers.

    May 31, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Don King

      Don't you mean Edmington? At Northfield Coliseum?

      May 31, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • melanie

      LMFAO your gonna be waiting along time!!! that's not happening anytime soon the oilers belong in edmonton 😀

      May 31, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Tom

    You know, there ought to be a rule in sports that says if a city can't keep a team once that we stop making the mistake of letting them try again till every other city of comparable or larger size has had a shot.

    May 31, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Spiderman

      Blast your rules!

      May 31, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • nah, I don't think so

      So, under your rules, when a team gets swiped like the Seattle Sonics did and gets moved to OKC, Seattle should never have a shot at another franchise? I don't think so. Or the Cleveland Browns?

      I don't know the backstory of this, but if hopefully it's not like the Sonics situation. Sounds like at least these new owners are upfront about moving the team from the get go. But professional leagues should at least try to make the best efforts to keep franchises in a city.

      May 31, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bryan

      If that were the rule the NHL would cease to exsist. Bozo Bettman would continue his foolishness of supporting and encouraging the relocation of teams to non-hockey markets where they continually lose money. Eventually he and his band of NBA genius' will run out of new cities to try. I had to love his (Bettman) idiotic comments that the NHL welcomed back Winnipeg but that the fans must sell out every game (Veiled threat) to be financially viable. I guess he means viable like Phoenix, Atlanta, Nashville, Dallas, Long Island, Florida, Etc, Etc. This guy is such an offence to everyone on both sides of the 49th that love the game.

      May 31, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. excitizen

    Back in Canada – yay Winnipeg! Now, can we overhaul the NHL please???? They take the majority of money made in Canada and give it to the US owners! What's up with that?

    May 31, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken

      and the U.S. military spends billions to protect Canada from inevitably getting taken over by another country. The U.S. should just annex Canada and take over its oil reserves.

      May 31, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      @Ken - sorry to burst your bubble, but as a proud canadian, i would side with russia or china over you idiots. You americans think you own the world, when in fact your country much like your economy is going down the toilet.

      May 31, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • poorfolk

      I dont agree with Adam. Canadians should be proud of maple syrup and sno cones...thats about it

      May 31, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patiat

      I knew this would eventually lead to some dingbat American harping on and on about their military.

      May 31, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Scarf

    Other monument news of the day is John Smith getting a traffic ticket at Elm & Maple along with Aunt Millie's dog Daisy having puppies.

    May 31, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  9. bla bla bla

    who cares?

    May 31, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • yourmom

      your mom does

      May 31, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • 34

      Can't people who don't care stop posting?

      May 31, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bob

    Hopefully with this move the NHL will take the once Thrashers (Eastern Conference) and place the new Winnipeg team in the Western Conference, allowing the Columbus Bluejackets to join the Eastern Conference.

    May 31, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • maplejet

      The Nashville Predators will move to the Southeast for the 2012-13 season.

      May 31, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Callen

      No... hopefully it will be the Red Wings who have been trying to get back in the east for longer than the Jackets have been around. We make the playoffs and are screwed by the schedule you guys don't make the playoffs so it's not a concern... Also then we play the Original 6 teams at least 4 times a year. It makes more sense but they will screw the Wings like they always do.

      May 31, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Callen

      Maplejet That makes no sense as they are in the Central timezone but it is what will happen because Bettman is a moron.

      May 31, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      The Bluejackets are the most traveled team in the NHL which is why it would make sense for them to move.

      May 31, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. John Johnson

    Atlanta Spirit (AS) always cared more about basketball in the first place and only had the Thrashers there for ticket sales when the Hawks were not playing. AS's promotion budget was also one of the lowest in the NHL (Forbes).

    Take the fact they are ranked 28 out of 30 in attendance (ESPN) it was not a money maker for AS and they dumped a bad investment. Add in the lawsuit with Belkin no way could they expect to get back the $130M lost in 6 years of operations.

    Hopefully now the Thrashers (or Jets) as a franchise will have a chance to succeed with less drama and ownership created obstacles.

    May 31, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Apeman

    bla bla bla, do u just troll the web to find stories to comment on negatively with no purpose? You must be very lonely, sucks to be you.

    May 31, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bla bla bla

    Hey Apeman, who cares what you think? get a life!!

    May 31, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ryan

    Bring back the Hartford Whalers, PLEASE!

    May 31, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Johnson

      LOL! I think the only way that will happen is if Gordie returns as well.

      May 31, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. John Pants

    Hockey south of the Mason-Dixie line is just wrong. Bring back the Whalers!

    May 31, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jacob D

      Raleigh has been more supportive of the 'Canes than Hartford usually was of the Whalers. Coincidentally, I moved to Raleigh from Middletown CT in the same year as the 'Canes moved here. It was sad to see them leave Hartford but the RBC Center is the best place to watch a hockey game in the NHL IMHO.

      May 31, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raleighhockey

      Northerners have been invading Raleigh for decades. No one who has roots here grew up playing hockey. It only makes sense that it came here because all these yanks brought their sport with them. I have been to a few Canes games, and they're a lot of fun to watch. However, my high school didn't have a hockey team as part of their sports program. Even though it is here, it still feels like it's out of place. Local media pushes hard to integrate the culture into southern culture. Whenever they get tired of pushing it, it will collapse and they'll remove this hockey team to where the NHL thinks they can get more money.

      May 31, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark McKee

      Let's see, Dallas, Carolina, Tampa Bay? Maybe if a Canadian team could actually win a cup then your argument would fly. Hockey south of the Mason-Dixon line has kept the league going for the last decade or so. Take it from a Devils fan, y'all don't need to listen to hockey snobs, you learned the game in a short amount of time, you support your teams as well as any fans up north. Y'all also have a lot of class. I'll never forget when the Devils won the Cup in OT in Dallas, back in 2000, the Stars fans started chanting to the Devils, "skate the cup! skate the cup" Very classy moment that I'll never forget. Hockey in the south is wrong? That dog just won't hunt.

      May 31, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken

      a little city like Hartford will not have a NHL team for a long time, if ever. Too close to Beantown!

      May 31, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10