NHL rumours put Winnipeg back in spotlight
Atlanta sports pundit says it's unlikely Thrashers will move
Winnipeg is back in the NHL rumour mill after a Hockey Night in Canada commentator speculated on the weekend that a group of investors in Toronto is interested in moving the Atlanta Thrashers.
During a HNIC segment called Satellite Hotstove, in which hockey journalists from across North America discuss issues, Al Strachan suggested a Toronto-based group is working to purchase the club and move it to Winnipeg.
Strachan said the investors include real estate firm Osmington Inc. and billionaire media magnate David Thomson.
He also said there was more to the story than idle speculation.
"This is not a torqued story. This is a good, solid business story," Strachan told CBC News on Monday.
"There is a desire on the part of these people to move Atlanta to Winnipeg, but as I stress, it is not imminent."
Any deal would need approval from the NHL board of governors, Strachan said, adding there are also many legal hurdles to be dealt with in Atlanta.
Another issue is what role True North Sports and Entertainment, which owns the MTS Centre and the Manitoba Moose, would play in such a move.
"The sport seems to be on a revival in areas that know hockey and Winnipeg is one of those," Strachan said. "The city has changed a lot since 1992. You've got a new facility there and I think the feeling is that the city would give a lot more support to it than they did last time."
True North Sports and Entertainment chair Mark Chipman has not commented on the rumours.
No one from the Thrashers organization has been reached for comment, but CBC News spoke to an Atlanta sports insider who said the chances of the team moving are nil due to the current owners needing the revenue to keep the city's Philips Arena afloat.
"There is zero per cent chance that the ownership group would be profitable just running the arena for Hawks' games and some concerts," said Atlanta sports commentator John Kincade.
"They need the revenue that is generated by an NHL team," said Kincade, an ESPN and local sports radio host.
Jets left 13 years ago
The Jets played their last game in Winnipeg on April 28, 1996, before relocating to Arizona to become the Phoenix Coyotes.
Although the city has the Manitoba Moose, an American Hockey League team affiliated with the Vancouver Canucks, many diehard fans still hold out hope that an NHL team will one day return to the city.
The NHL introduced a salary cap several years ago, making player costs more manageable for smaller-market teams.
The stronger Canadian dollar has also led some hockey experts to suggest Winnipeg could now afford an NHL team.