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Winnipeg group has deal to buy, move Atlanta Thrashers

by Staff Writer / Chicago Blackhawks
WINNIPEG -- The National Hockey League took a first step toward returning to the city of Winnipeg Tuesday with the announcement that True North Sports and Entertainment has acquired the Atlanta Thrashers.

True North Chairman Mark Chipman made the announcement, accompanied on the podium by prospective new owner David Thomson, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and True North President and CEO Jim Ludlow.

The press conference is being carried live on the NHL Network.

The sale is still pending approval by the NHL Board of Governors, which next meets on June 21 in New York. Transfer of ownership requires a 75 percent vote of approval, while relocation requires a majority vote.

Tuesday's announcement was made at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, where the team would play next season pending those approvals. The building, which seats 15,015 for hockey, is currently home to the AHL's Manitoba Moose and has hosted recent NHL preseason games.

If approved, the Thrashers move from Atlanta to Winnipeg is the League's first franchise relocation since 1997, when the Hartford franchise moved to Carolina. It is the third NHL relocation in the last 16 years. In the same period, the National Football League has moved four teams, while the National Basketball Association moved three franchises and Major League Baseball moved one.

Tuesday's announcement comes after several years of the League and the Atlanta ownership group attempting to find a local group to purchase and operate the Thrashers in their current city and arena. 

The Winnipeg Jets relocated to Arizona prior to the 1996-97 season and became the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Jets originally came into existence in 1972 and spent seven seasons playing in the World Hockey Association before joining the NHL for the 1979-80 season. Bobby Hull scored more than 300 goals for the club during its WHA days and current Anaheim Ducks star Teemu Selanne scored a rookie-record 76 goals for the Jets during the 1992-93 season.

Author: Bob Condor | Editor-in-Chief

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