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Winnipeg NHL team names new GM; Thrashers partnership litigation still active

Thrashers captain Andrew Ladd and blueliner Ron Hainsey will likely have a new GM if the Thrashers proposed move to Winnipeg goes forward as expected on June 21.
Thrashers captain Andrew Ladd and blueliner Ron Hainsey will likely have a new GM if the Thrashers proposed move to Winnipeg goes forward as expected on June 21.
(Getty Images/Kevin C. Cox)

The soon-to-be-moved Atlanta Thrashers have a new general manager – in Winnipeg.

True North Sports and Entertainment, Ltd., the prospective purchasers of the Thrashers franchise named former Chicago Wolves GM Kevin Cheveldayoff the general manager of the to-be-named Winnipeg NHL team on Wednesday.

Cheveldayoff, a Sasakatoon-native, will take the reins over from Thrashers GM Rick Dudley when the team begins its new history in Manitoba’s largest city in the end of June.

Winnipeg’s NHL entry will also have a new senior vice president and director of hockey operations as well if the sale and transfer of the franchise goes forward as expected on June 21. Current Manitoba Moose GM Craig Heisinger was named to that post as well on Wednesday. He will also serve as the team’s assistant GM.

Cheveldayoff spent the past two seasons as an assistant GM with the Chicago Blackhawks while Heisinger has been around the Winnipeg hockey scene as the Jets’ equipment manager before they left town in the 1995-96 season.

As expected, the Thrashers will go north without most of Atlanta’s management team. Both Dudley and Thrashers President Don Waddell will not head to Winnipeg. Coach Craig Ramsay is not expected to join the team in Manitoba, however, a decision has not been reached, yet.

The Atlanta Spirit entered into an asset purchase agreement with True North Sports and Entertainment to sell the team and move it to Winnipeg last week. True North paid $110 million for the team and forked over a $60 million “relocation” or “early breakup” fee to the league. It is reported that the Spirit is keeping $20 million of that fee.

All that remains for the Thrashers to move to Winnipeg is approval of the deal by the league's Board of Governors at their next meeting on June 21.

Isn’t that ironic? It appears as if Atlanta’s hockey team will head to Manitoba with litigation still pending in the ownership dispute that tore the franchise in two and ultimately lead to the team’s sale.

Court documents in Maryland show that the partnership dispute between rogue partner Steve Belkin and the rest of the Spirit partners remained active despite a reported settlement in December. The case is scheduled for a status conference on July 11.

Clerks at the Montgomery County (Md.) Circuit Court say that a new judge was assigned the case and scheduled the hearing for the July 11 date.

It is believed that the case remains open for procedural reasons only as the agreed upon settlement between Belkin and the rest of the Spirit partners has not officially been entered into the record – a final step toward technical disposal of the case.

The final bit of legal wrangling in the five-plus year case should not inhibit the sale of the Thrashers.

One would assume that True North Sports and Entertainment knew that the case was still pending at the time they entered into the asset purchase agreement and, at least at this point, it is not believed that Belkin is looking to oppose the sale.

Rumors that Belkin had filed a motion for injunctive relief to stop the sale appear to be erroneous. As of late Tuesday, no motion had been filed in the Montgomery County (Md.) Circuit Court, the Fulton County (Ga.) Superior Court, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, any United States federal court or any court in Winnipeg.

The Maryland action, which was commenced shortly after the Atlanta Hawks consummated a trade for Joe Johnson in 2005, can be located by clicking the following link, accepting the terms and conditions on the first page, selecting Montgomery County as the proper venue and entering 266748V as the Index Number.

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


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