Thrashers' Winnipeg move close, but not done yet
The Atlanta Thrashers' move to Winnipeg may be nearing completion, but it appears not to be signed and sealed just yet.
A report in the Globe and Mail says that an agreement is now in place to sell the team to Winnipeg group True North Sports and Entertainment, whose desire is to move the team to the city for the start of the 2011-12 season. The report also says that the deal will be made official on Tuesday, when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will arrive in Winnipeg to make the announcement.
But when CBC Sports contacted sources close to the deal, including a representative of True North, they said the sale isn't final — yet. Tuesday may be a target date if everything comes together, and it could be finalized as early as Friday, but none of that is set in stone and the process could take longer than that.
A spokesperson for the City of Winnipeg told The Canadian Press that municipal officials have not heard that anything has been confirmed.
Winnipeg has been without an NHL franchise since 1996, when financial issues forced the Jets to pack up and move to Phoenix.
Over the past few months, speculation has centred around the serious possibility that the financially troubled Coyotes were actually going to be moving back to Winnipeg.
After Glendale city council voted to foot a $25-million US bill to cover Coyotes' losses for next season, essentially keeping the franchise in limbo for one more year, the focus quickly turned to the equally troubled Thrashers.
On Monday, reports surfaced that Thrashers ownership and True North are in negotiations for a sale.
True North, led by businessman Mark Chipman and billionaire David Thomson, owns and operates the Manitoba Moose of the AHL and Winnipeg's MTS Centre, which would house the franchise if it makes the move.
Since their inception in 1999, the Thrashers have made the playoffs just once and haven't won a post-season game.
Thrashers supporters are planning a rally before the team's select-a-seat event on Saturday.
With files from The Canadian Press