It’s official: the Atlanta Thrashers are extinct.
The NHL’s Board of Governors gave their blessing to move Atlanta’s hockey team from the eighth largest television market to the city of Winnipeg on Tuesday.
“We deeply regret that Atlanta’s ownership was unable to secure localpartners after exhausting every option and alternative,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a press release. “At the same time, we are delighted that NHL hockey is returning to Winnipeg and to a fan-base that already is showing so much support for its team.”
“We congratulate Mark Chipman, David Thomson and TrueNorth on their patience, their preparation and their professionalism, and we look forward to the start of a new era for the franchise.”
The vote was a mere formality and the final step for the move of the Thrashers, which “officially” didn’t begin until the city of Glendale agreed to fork over $25 million to keep the Phoenix Coyotes in town in the wee hours of the morning on May 10.
Just ten days later a “preliminary agreement” had been entered into with True North Sports and Entertainment, Ltd. of Canada. On May 31, the Atlanta Spirit and TNSE entered into an “asset purchase agreement” to sell the team for $110 million. The league tacked on a $60 million “relocation” or “break up” fee. Numerous reports had the Spirit holding onto $20 million of that fee.
And on the official first day of summer, the Thrashers have flown north for good.
Ironically, the Thrashers move comes 31 years to the day the city’s last hockey team, the Atlanta Flames, moved to Calgary. Canada now has seven hockey teams, two of which have roots in the so-called capital of the South. The Flames played eight seasons in Atlanta from 1972-1980.
The Thrashers didn’t really take roost in Atlanta in their 11 “official” seasons, either. Plagued with a sub-par product on the ice, for most of those seasons, fans chose to answer with their wallets.
Instead of placating fans concerns and putting a better product on the ice or even mollifying long-time season ticket holders with perks for sticking with a losing product, Atlanta’s ownership group – the Atlanta Spirit – told their fans to brazenly “deal with it” when asked about a ticket price increase.
That same group, their representatives in the investment banking group – the Raine Group – or the NHL then reportedly conducted due diligence with the TNSE folks way ahead of the May 10 “official” point of contact.
Atlanta’s hockey fans never had a chance to save their hockey team from an ownership group that if you believe the detractors – had at least four groups interested in purchasing all three Spirit assets from the Spirit.
But either because those groups were “frauds” and “couldn’t afford season tickets” as bitter co-owner Michael Gearon said during his May 31 press conference or because those groups were jerked around by the Spirit, the NHL and the Raine Group as those groups may allege, the Spirit couldn’t close out a deal to sell the Thrashers, the Atlanta Hawks and the operating rights to Philips Arena.
Because of alleged financial difficulties, the Thrashers had to go.
Now they will be flying away to Winnipeg – for good. And the fans in Atlanta will be left without a professional hockey team – way too soon.
Examiner.com will continue to bring you updates to this breaking story.