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. boxorayn

    I thought hockey was still on strike?

    May 31, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. HotBlacklanta

    Whats Hockey?

    May 31, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Woop

      Yea. Finally.

      May 31, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  3. TwM

    Another useless Canadian team. Lets see Winnipeg had a team and it didn't draw well, Quebec had a team and it didn't draw well. Ottawa has a team and its attendance has been decreasing steadily over the last 3 years. NHL would have been smarter to just disband the franchise and enhance the rest of the teams with an influx of ok players. The talent base is too watered down right now. Get rid of the thrashers and the Islanders and the NHL would be stronger.

    May 31, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • DubC

      Clearly You haven't been to Ottawa as prior to this season we had four seasons of sell outs, and even this year with a dismal performance attendance was well above par for the league.

      May 31, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • KeyTime

      Face it – most teams in Canada crater anyway.

      May 31, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • chris

      Please, learn your hockey history. One, hockey wouldn't be in the states if it weren't for Canada. Two, Atlanta has been in the lower tier attendance wise ever since the NHL blundered in giving the city a second shot at the NHL (let's not mention that the minor league team that was in Atlanta never drew well). Atlanta doesn't have the fans to support a pro hockey team.

      May 31, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • TwM

      I agree with you on Hockey wouldn't be in the States. Now that it is and flourishes in many cities we need to stop moving teams and let them fold. The talent level is watered down. Ottawa has not sold out a season in over three years check your facts. Winnipeg failed once to hold a team why do we expect them to succeed now? They will do great for a year or so then flounder into the abyss.
      I am not against Winnipeg getting a team persay I am against the league watering down the talent so drastically with so many teams. Get rid of them and the Islanders and raffle off the parts. Winnipeg does not deserve a team, they already let one slip by. Atlanta never deserved a second team they have proven they can not support Hockey.

      May 31, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • ATL in TO

      I wouldn't call moving a team to a Canadian market useless. Both the Jets and Nordiques were sold based on the financial situation of the owner. The Jets' attendance numbers were low, but they are actually comparable to both ATL and NYI's numbers (this season) in cities with populations that far exceed Winnipeg's.

      As a former season ticket holder in ATL, I am sad to see the team leave – but Winnipeg is a good move. The new owners have considerable wealth behind them, are committed to seeing the NHL succeed in their city and won't be busy suing each other – all factors that the Atlanta Spirit failed to focus on in their years of ownership.

      May 31, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jim Carter

    Glad to hear it. Bring back the Quebec Nordiques too!

    May 31, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  5. timbercruzer

    Winterpeg,Manasnowba.A much better location than Atlanta when it comes to a pro hockey team.I feel bad for the few true Thrasher fans but they are more than welcome to become Jets fans.

    May 31, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • timbercruzer

      edit... "all three Thrasher fans..."

      May 31, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Brian

    Atlanta doesn't deserve a team – they got 2 chances and blew it. They can't even sell out a MLB playoff baseball game or an NFL football game. Not a true sports town. So put hockey where it belongs. In a passionate Canadian market that should've never lost their team the first time. Now bring back the Nordiques too!

    May 31, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Charles In Otawa

    @ TWM: Ottawa Attendance: 08/09:18949 09/10: 18269 10/11:18378. All of this with the team stinking. Ottawa is doing just fine. From a league comparison, thats 7th, 12th, 11th in the league for a stinker team. Many good teams lie far below...

    May 31, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Charles In Otawa

      OTTawa.

      May 31, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • TwM

      But Canada is supposed to be so gung-ho Hockey that records don't matter. Senators should be in top 5 in attendance based on what Canadians spout about their love of Hockey. Like i said instead of transplanting the team they should liquidate a few bettering the sport.

      May 31, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Rob

    Canada's only way to get more NHL franchises is for Atlanta to keep being awarded them!

    May 31, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. clifbar

    Hopefully I can get my old Jets gear back out! Atlanta is a horrible sports city. They couldn't sell out world series games when the Braves were good. Doubt that the majority understood hockey either.

    May 31, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Daniel

    I'm not sure if they are going to be succesful in Winnipeg... But will be a lot better off that the Maple Leafs that is for sure...

    May 31, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Cesar Chavez

    is it true there are no white people in atlanta? if so, i am moving there

    May 31, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Charles In Otawa

      Not so many people with the name Chavez either bud.

      May 31, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  12. BlackDynamite

    Atlanta had a hockey team?
    BD

    May 31, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Hoofleau

    Atlanta is not a Hockey town. It just isn't.

    May 31, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. melanie

    its about time! atlanta isnt for any sports anyways to bad and bring back the nordiques also cause they belong back in quebec and so they can get the rivalary back with the habs!!1:D AND WHO cares about grammer really its just comments not an essay

    May 31, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mike in ATL

    Winnipeg?! Where the heck is Winnipeg?!

    May 31, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • TwM

      Winnipeg is like Atlanta only COLDER, they couldn't support a Hockey team either.

      May 31, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
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