Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,
Chicago. Philadelphia. Boston. Vancouver.
Four of the largest, wealthiest, most aggressive sports markets in North America, all represented by their local hockey franchises in the past two Stanley Cup finals.
Into this uber-competitive mix re-enters Winnipeg, a city big enough that U2 played on the weekend at Canad Inns Stadium, and a city small enough that the spectacular prices being extorted by ticket scalpers/companies for this week’s Stanley Cup final, some in excess of $1,500 per ticket, should scare the hell out of its citizens.
You have to wonder; does The ’Peg really know what it’s getting into here?
Numerous reports claim a press conference announcing the move could be made tomorrow.
If not, then look to Thursday for the move to become official.
From the Winnipeg Free Press:
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman went into fire-fighting mode again today with some cold-water words for those convinced the league has received a finalized deal to move the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg.
Appearing on Tampa, Fla., radio station WDAE this morning, Bettman was served the Atlanta-Winnipeg question with a little too much certainty for his liking.
“I think you’re being a tad presumptuous on what’s going on in Atlanta,” Bettman said. “Nobody’s announced anything and frankly if there is something going on nothing is going to happen until it actually happens, which means it may not happen.
“So I think people need to take a deep breath and pause.”
From Ricky Doyle at NESN:
Fans of the NHL should welcome this move, which seems inevitable despite no official word yet. Hockey is the lifeblood of Canada, so therefore it makes sense for a league that struggles to gain recognition to welcome the return of a team to a market where it’ll be relevant.
The interest and passion for the Jets never evaporated from Winnipeg after the team’s 1996 relocation. The move was simply a financial one. It was impossible for the city, which was the NHL’s smallest market by the time the franchise relocated to Phoenix, to financially support the franchise.
But if the economic support is there, which it would have to be in order for the move to become a reality, it’s a fantastic move for the NHL at large.The Thrashers have only made the playoffs once since entering the league in 1999. A change of scenery, and subsequently identity, could prove to be beneficial.
But success—or lack thereof—is only a minor reason why the Thrashers moving would be good thing for the NHL.
Update 12:24am ET:And not just the NHL. Winnipeg realtors are a happy bunch, too. From the Winnipeg Sun:
High-end home sales could see a dramatic increase over the next year, if an NHL team is on its way back to Winnipeg.
Realtors are thrilled at the prospect of 25 millionaires looking for homes in the city.
“That’s going to have a huge impact, not only on the real estate market, but on the whole economy itself,” said Ralph Fyfe, Winnipeg Realtors president.
“These fellows will be buying nice houses, in nice neighbourhoods and it’s only going to be good for our real estate market. There’s no question about it.”
And it’s not just the players realtors are considering.
About 200 fans of the Atlanta Thrashers showed up for a rally Saturday in the face of expectations the team will move to Winnipeg.
“The people I talked to are passionate,” CBC News reporter Lyndsay Duncombe said from the parking area near Philips Arena, home of the NHL team.
“There is a sense of resigned disappointment here. I do think a lot of these folks believe this could be the last time they get together with these jerseys on in the hot Atlanta sun.”
Saturday was also select-a-seat day for season ticket holders.
Update 3:25pm ET: More from Jennifer Leslie at 11Alive, NBC:
“The hockey community is a huge hockey family,” said Lisa Lewis, president of the Thrashers Fan Club. “We all know each other, support each other, do what we can for each other. This is devastating for us.”
It’s also very personal for fans who have been around the longest.
“It’s kind of like the NHL saying the last 10 years of my life I’ve invested in something is not worth anything,” said another fan, who was moved to tears.
Update 6:30pm ET: Fair Weather Report provides the video below, a Thrashers’ fan reflecting on his experience of the team.
From David Shoalts at the Globe & Mail:
Bettman’s maneuvering could have backfired, but he had luck on his side. When Glendale politicians kicked in another $25-million recently toward next season’s Coyotes losses, Bettman won another year to sort out the sale of the Coyotes to Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer. The Goldwater Institute has effectively blocked that deal by threatening to sue if the sale of $116-million of municipal bonds is allowed to proceed. Revenue from the bonds is meant to finance the sale, along with $97-million in arena management fees that would be granted to Hulsizer.
Glendale’s second consecutive $25-million gift allowed Bettman to redirect True North from a brief dalliance with the Coyotes, and back to the Thrashers.
It is now conceivable that Bettman will deprive the Atlanta Spirit group - nine partners led by Bruce Levenson and Michael Gearon Jr. - of any proceeds from the $60-million relocation fee. He may even insist that the league deserves a $30-million cut from the $110-million franchise price, too.
The commissioner can argue that he, with the help of Hulsizer, created artificial value for the Thrashers by keeping the Coyotes in Glendale. Bettman may also claim a finder’s fee of sorts, by arguing the league brought True North and its $170-million to the table after Levenson and partners failed to sell the Thrashers after several years forlornly seeking a single credible buyer.
From Chris Stevenson of QMI via the Toronto Sun:
The NHL is going back to Winnipeg for one reason and one reason only.
It’s not because it is a place where hockey “matters,” as so many like to say.
It is not because of Manitobans love of the game.
Or because it is a desirable market (quite the opposite).
The reason is this: Faced with the choice of contracting the Atlanta Thrashers or moving to Winnipeg, the NHL is holding its nose and will back up the moving vans.
Not that the good people of Manitoba should care why they are getting an NHL team back, only that they are.
Make no mistake about it: As much as this is good news for the people of Manitoba, this is a setback for the league.
Meanwhile, Thrashers fans have a last-ditch rally planned for tomorrow.
From the CP via TSN:
The players have been given no indication one way or the other where they’ll be playing home games next season, according to goaltender Chris Mason.
“They’re not going to include us in any of the stuff and we shouldn’t be either,” Mason said Friday from his off-season home in Red Deer, Alta. “We’ll know probably the same time or after everybody else knows, that’s the way it goes.
“We’re sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to see what’s going to happen, too.”
Gary Bettman doesn’t sound any more certain himself:
“There has been so much speculation. How many people in your line of work were reporting the Coyotes were going to Winnipeg? Where is that coming from? It’s made up. It didn’t happen. The minute the Coyotes made it clear they’re staying, we’re on to Atlanta.
“True North is going about their business and they’re taking a businesslike approach,” Bettman said. “We are pleased with that, but there’s nothing to report… I never say never about anything. There is no deal right now.”
from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,
Perhaps in retrospect Sidney Crosby’s golden goal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver was a sign from the hockey heavens.
Get ready Canada for a new period of prosperity in professional hockey. A new golden era for this country in the NHL.
It is an era, expected to officially begin with the NHL deciding to move a team from the U.S. to Winnipeg as soon as this week, that has arrived with stunning speed.
With the Globe and Mail reporting earlier that the deal “to relocate the franchise to the Manitoba capital is done”, there’s been an avalanche of reports and contradictions in the past hour.
Stephen Brunt’s Globe report goes on to state the deal is meant to be revealed Tuesday.
Others, like Kevin Allen of USA Today and Scott Burnside at ESPN, aren’t convinced. And Brian Munz—the play-by-play voice of the Manitoba Moose and reporter with CJOB radio in Winnipeg, checked with True North who state that the “sale of Thrashers is NOT done.” CBC’s Elliotte Friedman comments there might indeed be a “framework of an agreement” but “pending final attempts to find local ownership.”
So it seems premature to make any assumptions at this point. We’ll update reports on this if anything more concrete emerges.
Updated 10:15pm ET. From the Canadian Press:
“It’s not true,” True North spokesman Scott Brown said when asked about the report that a deal was done.
True North Sports and Entertainment owns and operates the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League and the MTS Centre arena, which would become the NHL team’s new home.
The Globe report says the NHL board of governors has already approved the sale and transfer of the team, pending negotiation of a purchase agreement between Atlanta Spirit LLC, the Thrashers’ owners, and True North.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly is also not confirming the report, saying “as far as we know, there is nothing done.”
“Certainly, the board has not approved anything,” he said in an email to The Canadian Press.
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