The Atlanta Thrashers hockey team has been purchased by an owner who intends to move the National Hockey League franchise to Winnipeg, returning the sport to the capital of Manitoba, Canada, for the 2011-2012 season. The sale must be approved by the NHL Board of Governors, who will meet on June 21.
The team was reportedly sold to True Sports North for $170 million, with an additional $60 million relocation fee paid to the Atlanta Thrashers owner, Atlanta Spirit, by the rest of the NHL. The Thrashers have struggled in recent years, with attendance averaging 14,000--among the worst in the league.
Atlanta previously lost its Flames hockey team to Calgary in 1980.
Winnipeg's last hockey franchise, the Jets, played in the city from 1972 until 1996, when financial problems forced its sale to a Phoenix group of investors, who renamed them the Coyotes. After filing bankruptcy in 2009, the team was taken over by the NHL and remains in Phoenix.
Winnipeg lost the Jets because of the limited support from its small market--less than 700,000 live in the metropolitan area. True Sports North will attempt to ensure the team's financial future by selling 13,000 season tickets at a special price in multi-year packages.
I'm excited beyond words to announce the purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers, said Mark Chipman, chairman of the board of True North.
True North Sports & Entertainment Limited is the owner, developer, and operator of the MTS Centre, a 15,000-seat multi-purpose sports and entertainment venue in downtown Winnipeg. The Manitoba Moose, an AHL hockey team, currently play there.
The Manitoba Moose will likely move to St. John's, Newfoundland, or Thunder Bay, Ontario, according to Rogers Sportsnet.