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. Dean

    What's hockey?

    May 31, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mikey

      You wouldn't understand it. It's a game that combines speed, skill, and toughness like no other. So I suggest you stick to basketball or soccer, which would appeal to your limited mindset.

      May 31, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      @Mikey: spoken like someone who could play neither soccer nor basketball if their un-athletic life depended on it. Your own "limited mindset" is just as unfortunate as dear ol's Dean's.

      May 31, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mikey

      Angry Sarah: you don't know me, so how can you comment on my athletic ability? Just as I don't know you and cannot comment on your athletic ability. Get a life and some anger management.

      May 31, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Awan A'Fuqya

    More American jobs being outsourced...this time to the Canucks, with their beedy little eyes & flaping heads all full of lies.

    Hell! If I was in Atlanta I'd leave too.

    May 31, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shane

      I didn't even realize that Atlanta still had a hockey team.

      May 31, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jonathan

      I hope that was sarcasm because that comment was quite offensive.

      In addition, I think you have the concept of outsourcing all wrong. In this case the ENTIRE BUSINESS is leaving. The jobs were essentially already outsourced because the largest number of players on most NHL teams are canadian to begin with.

      May 31, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patiat

      Boo hoo. Winnipeg- a hotbed of hockey fandom- already had its team sucked away from it by the manufactured hockey market of Phoenix in the 90s. Sadly, the NHL didn't approve the Coyotes' move to Hamilton. And now you cry because a team from another manufactured US market moves north? Any time a team moves from a region where it's cold and kids play hockey to somewhere warm, something's wrong. Winnipeg, Quebec, Hartford, Minnesota...all were moved south to "new" markets created by marketing and not by real interest. Only Denver can really be said to be something of a hockey market, and hardly as much as Quebec City was. Don't cry- this is just a long-overdue correction in hockey.

      May 31, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      You obviously know nothing about Hockey. This will affect Atlanta's economy very little, while really boosting Winnipeg's. Hockey is way more popular in Canada than the states, and I would not be surprised if 75% of the employees of this franchise are Canadian. Also Atlanta has 3 major league sports teams, while Winnipeg has nothing, while I feel bad for Thrasher fans, this is really a great thing for the city of Winnipeg. I wouldn't be surprised to see hockey in Atlanta again though.

      May 31, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rick nash

    If any team deserves to switch to the Eastern Conference, it's the Blue Jackets. Columbus is farther east than Detroit.

    May 31, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  4. brandon

    they cant be the jets.. Phoenix still owns the name Jets

    May 31, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      Wrong! The NHL owns the rights to all their teams names including former teams. The story was on TSN (Canada's ESPN) weeks ago explaining this.

      May 31, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patiat

      It's a huge shame the NHL didn't approve the move of the Coyotes to Hamilton. The fact that Winnipeg was even moved to Phoenix at all in the first place was a travesty.

      May 31, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  5. itsamemario

    that sucks for the fans that lose a team(no matter how many there were) and for the players that gotta now uproot their households to a whole other country. personally i feel that any location can host any sport, given the correct management and marketing. im a san jose sharks fan and will always be a sharks fan though..

    May 31, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ken

    well, the restaurants in Atlanta will do better now. Canadians are cheap and the worst tippers. Ask any waiter south of the Mason/Dixon line.

    May 31, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • closetiguana

      Restaurants will do better with less business?

      May 31, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken

      restaurants will do better with better customers...not the cheap canadian types who don't tip

      May 31, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patiat

      I don't think Ken understands how a RESTAURANT makes money, as compared to how waitstaff make money, at least in the US.

      May 31, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • CM14

      Canadians don't tip as well because in Canada wait staff doesn't make a different "minumum" wage than other workers. In the US, the tips count towards your minimum wage total, but many Canadians don't realize this (that your employer is paying you less assuming your customers will make up the difference). Canadians aren't cheap as a rule; anytime I've pointed this out to a surprised Canadian, they always change the amount they tip in the future.

      Go Jets!

      May 31, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ken

    Glad that the man of little stature, Gary Bettman, is happy now

    May 31, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Proud Canadian

      And Americans are ignorant and self centered. How do you like that? Doesn't sound too nice judging a WHOLE country on a couple of people does it?? People like you, who are so quick to criticize should give their heads a shake.

      May 31, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. John

    I lived in Atlanta. College footbal l is king in that part of the country!

    May 31, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ken

    we need a flowchart to follow where teams have been! How 'bout the Winnepeg Winnebago's?

    May 31, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ken

    could we not just have forced a trade, Thrashers for all of Canada's oil reserves? Actually we could have gone in and just taken what we wanted. Oh, forgot about those feared Royal Mounties...

    May 31, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Yes, then watch China instantly collapse the US economy.

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

    Is anyone surprised by this? Atlanta's demographics are conducive to a white winter sport.

    May 31, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brent

      "are not conducive"

      May 31, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. itsamemario

    that sucks for the fans that lose a team(no matter how many fans there were) and somewhat for the players that gotta now uproot their households to a whole other country. personally i feel that any location can host any sport, given the correct management and marketing. there also should be a general interest in said area. im a san jose sharks fan and will always be a sharks fan though..

    May 31, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patiat

      What's the difference? Teams from the cold, hockey-crazy north (Quebec City, Winnipeg, Minneapolis, Hartford) get moved to "manufactured markets" in warm cities and no one in the US moans. But now, Atlanta loses a team to a REAL hockey town...FOR THE SECOND TIME, and people are blubbering uncontrollably about it.

      May 31, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Al Beritebak

    At least the NHL will get rid of one awful logo. What the hell was that thing anyway? Must have seen the Canucks logo from the 80's and thought that was cool..

    May 31, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ratso Rizzo

    I thought they closed the entire city of atlanta down years ago after the '96 olympics bombing. This is very strange news indeed.

    May 31, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. lizng

    Atlanta has a hockey team?

    May 31, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
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