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Thrashers begin refunding season ticket holders ahead of Governors' vote

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The Atlanta Thrashers are beginning the process of refunding season ticket deposits.

Multiple season ticket holders confirmed that the Atlanta Spirit – the owners of the Thrashers, the Atlanta Hawks and the operating rights to Philips Arena – have refunded their accounts for the deposits they placed for Thrashers season tickets for next year.

The Spirit has also refunded other monies they have been holding onto from previous campaigns according to those same ticket holders.

The move comes as a bit of a surprise to some, as the Thrashers have not been officially sold yet. However, it was yet another indication that the team’s sale and move to Winnipeg is all but assured by both the team and the NHL.

The Spirit entered into an “Asset Purchase Agreement” where they agreed to sell the Thrashers to True North Sports and Entertainment, Ltd. and move the club to Winnipeg last week for $110 million dollars. The NHL also received a $60 million “relocation” or “breakup” fee as part of the deal. Numerous reports have the Spirit holding on to $20 million of that fee.

The swift refund of ticket deposits could look to some as a counterbalance to the ineptitude that was on display within the organization in the hours after the “Asset Purchase Agreement” was entered into on May 31.

Not only did a number of long-time season ticket holders get the sad news that the team they had supported for 11 years was likely leaving town last Tuesday, but some of those season ticket holders were socked with progress payments on their deposits when the calendar flipped to June 1.

Talk getting kicked in the privates while you are already down.

Now with less than two weeks before the move becomes officially final, the Spirit is emptying the Thrashers’ bank accounts. Fans were also given the option of rolling over their Thrashers deposit to those for the Hawks at a significant discount. Something tells me not that many Thrashers fans took the Spirit up on that offer.

In other news, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly spent the day in Manitoba’s largest city and did something neither he nor his boss Gary Bettman has done in Atlanta of late – addressed the media.

No wonder why the deputy commish and his head honcho buddy are reluctant to address questions in the eighth largest television market in the country. It seems like the fix was in at the start and the Board of Governors vote is a true fate accompli.

“I have no reason to believe it won’t be unanimous,” Daly told the Winnipeg Sun of the impending June 21 ownership transfer vote. “All the factors would indicate this is something that’s in the best interest of the league to approve this relocation and approve the transfer of ownership.”

Sorry, Daly, I’m not buying what you are selling for a second. In fact, if you had an extra “e” in your surname, I’d think you were related to that wonderful Daley family that ruled Chicago politics with an iron fist.

Moving a team from Atlanta when you have a truly unmitigated disaster brewing in Phoenix is somehow in the “best interests of the league?”

Somehow it’s in the “best interests of the league” to leave a city of 5.5 million people for one 1/7th the size after a legitimate six month search for ownership. It’s in the “best interests of the league” to abandon the so-called Bettman expansion into the Sunbelt and it’s in the “best interests of the league” to abandon that so-called lip service “covenant with fans” you have to cities not named in Atlanta, Ga.

About the only thing that is in the “best interests of the league” is that $40-60 million that will be lining your governors’ pockets thanks to that little “relocation” or “breakup” fee.

Now that’s a guy you’d want in a foxhole protecting your life. Someone who is willing to bend the rules on what’s in the “best interests of the league” thanks to an extra few million per team in payola.

Whenever you are ready to admit that the extra cash and getting rid of the Atlanta Spirit is what’s really in the “best interests of the league” here, I’ll be willing to listen. Until then, I’m tuning you and your buddy Commissioner Bettman out.

At least there’s one silver lining to this whole saga. The poor Winnipeggers – a lot of whom had their seats snatched up in favor of out-of-town scalpers before they could purchase them online – will not be getting the Jets’ history when the Thrashers end up in Winnipeg in a few weeks.

That’ll be stuck with the team that Daly and Bettman run in Phoenix. You’d think the league would give that back to Winnipeg’s fans for free.

But this is Bettman’s NHL – a league of faux promises and phony cronyism masked by a “Board of Governors” vote.

Why do the “right” thing like the NFL was forced into doing the Cleveland Browns fans when an expansion team replaced the original Browns after they bolted down a few years earlier?

Oh yeah. The city of Cleveland had to go to court for that. Maybe Daly and Bettman should give the Atlanta Spirit a call on this first. If they know anything, it’s the inside of a court room.

For updates whenever a new article is posted, please follow me either on Twitter @PJFoleyExaminer or Google Buzz.

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