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. Dan

    This is great news for true fans of the game of hockey!
    This isnt about location but more about the NHL making their franchises valuable in a industry where the mighty dollar rules. There is no question that there are a few more NHL franchises suffering financially and after a period of X amount of years of winning and loosing, both fans and owners must come to the realization that a team must relocate if their market cant support it!.
    Quebec City, Hamilton and London, Ontario need to be considered as strong relocation destinations for future teams in Canada. Most feel that Toronto could support 2 NHL franchises like their neighbours down the road in NY City.
    Though I appreciate the fact that the relocation of a franchise in any sport is not a healthy move for the sport, it's fans, owners or their league, a healthy market is good for the future stability of its franchise and overall make alot more financial sense. It isnt good for the game or it's owners to have franchises loosing millions and millions of dollars each season, eventually someone has to pull the plug. Some markets are just not cut out for the game of hockey and it seems like Atlanta is one of them
    Congrats to the City of Winnipeg and their fans, they deserve to have another kick at the can!

    May 31, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • frankcanadian

      And wouldn't you think that a combined Maritime team from Eastern Canada would work?
      Say a team divided (or united) by Halifax, Fredricton, St. John's and Charottetown. Creatively it could work.
      And the Maritime spirit could see a Stanley Cup, probably quicker than fans in T.O.
      Why not?

      May 31, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. TAYLOR

    Let's go Sabres!!!!!

    May 31, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sheri L

    Welcome Home, JETS!!! Go Jets, Go!!!

    May 31, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. icedawg

    Problematic ownership. Partnerships are temperamental and easily blow up.

    May 31, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. steven

    Gratz Winnipeg, nice to see another canadian team back in the league like it should be!. Hamilton will be next!

    May 31, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mikes

    Great. Hockey teams shouldn't be from cities which don't have ice in the winter.

    May 31, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      Mikes-Atlanta was 20 deg last winter, If you watched the weather channel you would know this.I live in Chattanooga TN and supported both Atlanta and Nashville. So now-Let's go predators. And tony, Get your head out of your azz.

      May 31, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Last_Warrior

      @Tim, I think what mikes means is that ATL on average does not have winters that support a hockey culture. How many kids from ATL grow up playing pickup games of ice hockey on the local pond? I betcha that the hockey fans in ATL moved there form a Hockey state.

      May 31, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Karen

      @ Tim 20 degrees is suntanning weather for us Canadians. Wpg has an average between -30 to -40 C for weeks at a time in the winter

      May 31, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Brandon

    Winnipeg, congratulations on obtaining one of the crappiest teams in the NHL.

    May 31, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tony-Buckhead

    We had a hockey team in Atlanta?

    May 31, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jerry Frogg

    Great news here in Detroit. The Wings move tot he East and I won't have to stay up till 1:30 in the morning to watch games against the Western teams.

    May 31, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  10. DC

    THe Columbus Blue Jackets will move to the Eastern conference.

    May 31, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Gorilla #10 Exposing flaws in logic

    I hope you're being sarcastic, Mark. Canadian cities are supporting their teams despite not winning the cup in almost 2 decades. Dallas is in serious trouble right now, due to their poor record in the past few years. Given time, so will Tampa and Carolina, as well as Anaheim. The Pens almost left Pittsburgh, until they drafted Crosby and won another cup.

    Most American fans are fair weather fans. There is only 1 Stanley Cup awarded each year. Not enough to prop up all of the questionable markets in the US. BTW, I do not include strong US markets like Detroit, Philadelphia, Boston, Buffalo, etc in this response.

    May 31, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. about time

    When does Atlanta get a third team to lose?

    May 31, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Rob

    good. now lets get rid of the Pheonix Coyotes make them the Hartford Whalers.

    May 31, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Richie

    hockey sucks anyway, BUH BYE!

    May 31, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yourmomlastnite

      So did your mom last night. Boyaaa!!

      May 31, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Brandon

    Yeah Winnipeg, go name the team after the 'legendary' Jets from yesteryear. How NHL many championships was it that they brought home? Seriously, they should come up with a new name for the team.

    May 31, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
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