Friday, May 20, 2011

Thrashers to Winnipeg: Just short of being a done deal!


Winnipeg Mayor: "It's just a matter of time"

WINNIPEG -- It's just "a matter of time" before a deal to move the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg is finalized and announced, the city's mayor said Friday.

Mayor Sam Katz said the deal to bring an NHL team back to Winnipeg is going to happen. There is an understanding the deal will move forward but nothing is signed, sealed and delivered yet, he said.

Katz said he's been in touch with Winnipeg's True North Sports and Entertainment, the company negotiating the sale, and has been told there is nothing official -- yet.

"I do believe this will happen and it's long overdue," Katz said in an interview. "The Jets never should have left here . . . After 15 years, we'll all be ecstatic to have them back. There is no doubt that the fan base is there. The corporate support is there."

True North Sports and Entertainment have been quietly negotiating with the Atlanta Thrashers about moving the team north of the border. Despite a report Thursday night that a deal is done, both the NHL and True North have said nothing has been decided yet.

That hasn't stopped Winnipeg hockey fans from celebrating.

Excitement about the return of NHL hockey is growing in the city with fans now buzzing about what the team should be called and wondering how soon they can buy tickets. Some fans took to the streets late Thursday night, waving Jets jerseys -- still a best-seller in the city -- and cheering "Go, Jets, Go!"

Winnipeg lost its beloved Jets in 1996 when the team moved to Phoenix because of financial problems. Since then, Winnipeg has built a new arena -- the MTS centre -- and has argued it can support an NHL franchise once again.

"This is a very different Winnipeg than it was 15 years ago," Katz said.

Seeing an NHL team play on Winnipeg ice once again would have special meaning for Thomas Steen. He played for the Winnipeg Jets for 14 years and is now a city councillor. Steen broke down crying when it was announced in 1995 that the money-losing Jets were leaving Winnipeg.

Like some other skeptical fans, Steen said he's trying not to get his hopes up until the deal is official.

"We've been close before," he said. "I'm trying not to get too excited but of course, I'm excited. It sounds for real this time."

At the 4Play sports bar across from Winnipeg's MTS Centre, co-owner Oreanna Cheater said the excitement is palpable. The return of the Jets is all anyone is talking about.

"It's been an up-and-down roller-coaster but I'm very, very excited about it. I think it's for sure this time, it's actually going to happen," she said. "I don't think my son slept a wink last night. He is unbelievably excited."
Cheater believes Winnipeg fans will show their loyalty.

"When something is taken away from you, it opens your eyes and you say 'Oh, oh. We weren't doing our jobs'," she said.

David Kehler shared season tickets to the Jets with his grandfather before the team left the city. Their departure was "devastating" and Kehler said he can't wait to watch an NHL team on home ice again.
"I'm just waiting for that call to put a deposit down on a season ticket," said Kehler, who has started an online petition calling for the prospective Winnipeg team to be called the Jets. "It seems like it's just inevitable at this point."


Deal not done yet!

Sources tell TSN that a reported agreement to move the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg has not yet been reached and that talks are continuing.

The Globe and Mail reported on Thursday night that an agreement had been reached where owners Atlanta Spirit would sell the Thrashers to Winnipeg-based True North Sports and Entertainment, and that an announcement to officially move the team to Winnipeg would come Tuesday.

Primary sources in both Winnipeg and Atlanta told TSN late Thursday night that there are still significant issues being negotiated.

NHL sources have also told TSN that the deal to sell the team is not yet complete.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who attended the Bruins-Lightning game in Tampa on Thursday night, has no plans to travel to Winnipeg on Friday.

Quoted from The Fourth Period's facebook:

"J-E-T-S ...... Its actually happening - Thoughts?"

and their main page article:

The Globe and Mail reported late Thursday evening that an agreement to sell the Atlanta Thrashers to True North Sports and Entertainment is done, resulting in the club moving to Winnipeg.

Citing sources, The Globe and Mail claims True North owners Mark Chipman and David Thomson had been pursuing the Thrashers for some time, as they were the primary target, not the Phoenix Coyotes, whom they had also pursued. The paper indicates an announcement was is for Tuesday in Winnipeg, where NHL commissioner Gary Bettman would be in attendance, though that could change as a result of the news breaking much sooner.

TFP has learned that a deal has not yet been finalized, though one league source confirmed the NHL would not get in the way of a sale and move.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly has also indicated that the NHL's Board of Governors has not yet approved the sale.

It's not yet being reported what the team purchase price and NHL relocation fees are, though it's believed to fall in and around $170 million.

TSN reported last Thursday night "there are still significant issues being negotiate."


I am admittedly excited. :D Not even a Jets fan remotely, just nice to see the story finally coming to a head.


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