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. george sako

    Those hicks don't need a hockey team anyways they're too busy milking their cows. Yeeeeeeeehaww!!!

    May 31, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • asdf

      As much as I agree Georgia is a hick dump based on the Trailer Park Boys I don't think Nova Scotia is much better.

      May 31, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • AreUSerious?

      there are more dairy farms in upstate new york than georgia... you stereotypical idiot

      May 31, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • asdf

      Anybody exposed to upstate New York realizes its just as big a hillbilly wasteland as most of the the south. People in Utica have six fingers and when Buffalo is your shining bastion of civilization you know a region sucks.

      May 31, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tellit Likeit Is

      Atlanta already has enough real sports teams. We don't need hockey.... didn't want it in the first place. Good bye and good luck. It's about time you woke up and smelled the roses.

      May 31, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jeff

    This is no surprise to me. The south is not a place for hockey. We get some transplants that like hockey but there isn't enough of them to make a difference. Atlanta is not really big enough either. I don't know what they were thinking putting it there in the first place.

    May 31, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • NotYou

      Atlanta isn't big enough? Ok. How about this, people just don't like hockey in the south.

      May 31, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Canes Fan

      How is Atlanta not big enough? It is bigger than Raleigh and the Canes have an awesome fan base.

      May 31, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • TwM

      The population mix is why Atlanta doesn't support a hockey team. Not the size of the Area.

      May 31, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • PredsFan

      I don't know, the teams in Flordia, Texas, North Carolina and Tennessee all seem to be doing well. Perhaps it was just that the teams constantly sucked, thus people quit attending the games. No one wants to go to a game if you know you're going to lose.

      May 31, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thatguy371

      Atlanta metro area has over 5 million people, ninth largest metro area in the U.S. Yes the south isn't big on hockey, but no, you're wrong on Atlanta's size.

      May 31, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack MeOff

      Epic Fail there, Jeff. Teams in Tampa, Raleigh, Miami and Dallas all seem to do well. Im sure Winnipeg was offering some incentives that was making the new ownership happy.

      May 31, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • closetiguana

      Tampa was 1 win away from being in the Stanley Cup, again!

      May 31, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • jason.

      Oh, Atlanta was PLENTY big enough – Winnipeg is only about 600,000. But I'm guessing Hockey wasn't exactly something the population was interested (enough) in to keep the team. It's a bit of a shame for them, but some welcome news for those of us near Winnipeg.

      May 31, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. poorfolk

    I feel bad for the poor folk who have to move to Winnipeg.

    May 31, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carl

      This is a great city with much lower crime rate than Atlanta

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

      lower crime rate due to lower number of people because no one wants to live there.

      May 31, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • omahart

      Why? Have you ever been there?

      May 31, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • gojetsgo

      some people are so ignorant

      May 31, 2011 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. drew

    Thrasher news met with resounding silence, as most people in metro Altanta didn't even know we had a hockey team.

    May 31, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ashley

    @Carl, actually, Winnipeg is one of Canada's most dangerous cities; not the safest.

    May 31, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • cdasue

      Why do you some of you rag on the city when you know very little about us. No, we don't have winters where it's -30 to -40 for weeks on end a few days, possibly a week, yes. Sure we have an issue with murders but alas we have a core area and sadly most come from there.

      I am glad the Jets or Falcons or whatever they call them are back in the city. It shows the city is changing...for the good.

      May 31, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • sbrown

      Winnipeg may indeed be one of the most dangerous cities in Canada, but violent crime in Canada is one tenth of what it is in the United States. I'd bet a lot violent crime in Winnipeg is much lower than that in Atlanta.

      June 1, 2011 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Don

    Maybe the diehard Thrashers fans can form a support group with the few remaining Hartford Whalers holdouts?

    May 31, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • WayOutThere

      Yes, we would welcome them happily, then plan our attack against the snobby Original 6 cities! Long live the Whale! (and the Thrashers!)

      May 31, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Canada LOL

    I guess hockey is really all that Canada has. And even hockey sucks.

    May 31, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Yes, all this peace, properity, and vast natural resources sure does suck.

      May 31, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dude

    Hockey is a great sport to see in person and the south is hot enough that anyone would enjoy a chance to spend time in a building with lots and lots of ice! However, fans have to battle the daunting logistics of Atlanta traffic. Plus, layoffs and outsourcing have taken their toll on formerly affluent middle class fans.

    May 31, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Alex

    Hockey in Atlanta? Hahahahaha

    May 31, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  10. poorfolk

    As a native Atlantan I like CocaCola, ACC Basketball, SEC Football...I dont have time for boring canadian sports. Seems like hockey should be played in places that are freezing cold and boring....like Winnipeg.

    May 31, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • LVmarc

      Although Basketball was invented by a Canadian, I have to say that hockey is way more exciting than it or just about any other sport. I'm assuming that you haven't watched a game (either basketball or hockey).

      May 31, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • poorfolk

      basketball invented by a canadian...no one really cares. I dont think the dude lived in canada when he invented it by the way...he moved to the US like most smart canadians. This is why the basketball hall of fame is in Springfield, MA not canada. also its so funny how defensive canadians get about this stuff....chill out.

      May 31, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • sbrown

      The basketball hall of fame is in the US because the US is the ONLY country that cares about basketball.

      Hockey boring? Is that a joke? It is one of the fastest sports around. The players are in Olympic shape. It involves all aspects of all other sports combined.

      June 1, 2011 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cj

      As for "boring" in Winnipeg, I'd invite you to come spend a weekend here. That's all it would take to prove you wrong. And if you still find it boring after a weekend here, I'd have to say, learn how to have fun eh?

      June 5, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |
  11. oreo

    good there are too many hockey teams thinning out the talent pool.
    Get rid of teams in FL and south Cali too....

    May 31, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • WayOutThere

      RELOCATING. Not FOLDING. Has nothing to do with reducing the # of hockey players as such.

      May 31, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  12. oreo

    I almost forgot - smoke sh!t instead, mon....

    May 31, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  13. joe danielson

    With the sale of the thrashers. Where does that leave the chicago wolves. Are they a minor league with players that will never see the pro'S? Unless they get traded! That would really suck. They have a very talented team every year.

    May 31, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      Their affiliation will likely follow to Winnipeg. Since the other 29 teams already have agreements in place.

      May 31, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • denise

      actually the manitoba moose which plays at the MTS centre now will be farm team for the Jets. Owners of the moose want to keep both of the teams. The moose will probably be moving to newfoundland

      May 31, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Stars Fan

    I live in Dallas and have season tickets to the Stars. Hockey is alive and well in the South. This is not just a Northern sport.

    May 31, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. InATL

    The Thrashers suffered gross mismanagement, leading to losses. Attendance was great when they were winning, but bad with they lost. Bettman has egg on his face, and blames the fans to distract from his own shortcomings. We wish the (former) Thrashers well. They almost have to be in better hands than they were here.

    May 31, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
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