Thrashers, Jets & Moose Oh My

How great is this cartoon from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution?

Stephen Brunt told the Jeff Blair show this morning that he thinks this is really it for the people of Winnipeg, “I think an announcement could come as early as the end of this week or next week”.

There is a ton of information out there, here are a few highlights:

“There is, sort of. The same cluster of fans who loved the Thrashers when they arrived in 1999 love them still, but the franchise has had 12 years to attract a bigger audience and failed. For the zealots, separation would come as a blow. For the rest of us, it would mean little. Because the Thrashers have never sold themselves to us. They haven’t won big enough. They’ve been part of Atlanta, but they’ve never become part of the Atlanta conversation.”

That says it all to me.

“We know that the current ownership of the Thrashers has been trying for a long period of time to try and sell the franchise and they haven’t been able to do it. … If they can’t find local ownership, then we might all have to deal with that. But I know they have tried very hard and I assume that they continue to try very hard.”

Atlanta would be losing an NHL franchise for the second time. The city lost the Flames to Calgary in 1980. An expansion team was awarded to the city on June 25, 1997, named the Thrashers eight months later, to begin play for the 1999-2000 season.”

That from the article that broke the actual news of discussions between Atlanta and Winnipeg.

“However, I would simply caution you to not fall prey to some of the stuff being cranked out of the rumor mill while this saga plays out. And don’t allow your emotions to be yanked up and down whenever you read about “impending announcements” from sources that have no names.

In the end, the outcome of this drama will be directed by not the internet pundits or talking heads on sports shows across North America. Nor will the matter be settled by those cyber-warriors who infiltrate blog sites and debate the merits of Atlanta, Phoenix, Winnipeg or [insert name of city here] as an NHL city.”

An excellent fan perspective.

“It became crystal clear that a number of them couldn’t care less about working in an environment that not only understands the game and is passionate about it, but is a center of popularity for it.

We sat here and listened to pretentious millionaires who play a game for a living whine about their hard knock lives and how they would have to uproot their families and kids, and how Phoenix has such great weather and schools. We even had an up and coming goaltender threaten to return and play hockey in Russia rather than re-sign with a team that was destined to return to Winnipeg.”

Seems the Coyotes desire to stay south ruffled some feathers in Winnipeg

“The NHL, by virtue of allowing these talks and working on a schedule that includes Winnipeg, is prepared to let relocation to Winnipeg happen.

More to the point, commissioner Gary Bettman is OK with it.

Mr. Bettman gets what he wants in the NHL and if you need proof, just have a look at the sideshow in Phoenix. The commissioner wasn’t interested in leaving the desert and he moved heaven and hell to keep the Coyotes at Arena.

The board of governors have Bettman’s back and his blessing on talks between True North and Atlanta Spirit tells the entire story in terms of the governors. They’ve signed off and any needed massaging of league bylaws is an afterthought.

If True North can give Atlanta Spirit what it wants in short order — this deal will be done and approved and Winnipeg will have its Jets or Falcons or Moose or whatever they end up being called by this fall.”

The Winnipeg perspective that has been all over this story

“The reason Balsillie never succeeded was not because of the money, or the NHL’s supposed fear of going back to Canada. No, the problem was that Balsillie, who tried to purchase the Coyotes through bankruptcy court, never respected the process.

Or rather, he never respected NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.”

Maybe Jim Balsillie should have been spending more time on the planning of the playbooks!

More as news develops-



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May 17, 2011 11:21 am

Just a thought, but I was in Winnipeg this past weekend and stayed at The Radisson downtown, which is right next door to the MTS Centre.

Overall impression of the area was not healthy. A tremendous amount of, what appeared to be, displaced natives — everywhere. That coupled with an overall look of economic depression from all around over town, didn’t give me a feeling that this was a “major league” city anymore.

Essentially, I’m wondering if this will work. Yes, they love hockey but can they afford to ice a successful NHL team down the road?

To me, this is not a slam dunk. Hope I am wrong.

May 17, 2011 1:50 pm

For the same reasons hockey failed in Winnipeg and now Phoenix, it is doomed to fail there again.

There are not enough people who will pay the kind of money to keep an NHL team afloat. Plus, some genius built an arena with only 15,000 seats, so the ticket price points will have to be even higher to generate adequate revenue, compared to a 19,000 seat arena.

Look, if Edmonton and Calgary can both be rumoured to be in trouble (and Calgary was in real trouble a while ago an may be again some day – Edmonton has a good owner in place for now), what makes anyone think the Winnipeg Thrashers will be any better off?

Look at the City from Drumanchor’s perspective. How many people do they have to draw from? Do they havenother large city close by? Or a cross border major urban centre ? (the way Buffalo does). Answer: No and No.

I know I will get some people on my case, but there is no Greater Winnipeg area, the way there is a Greater Hamilton or KW area, or a Southern Ontario with 5 or 6 million people clamouring for reasonably priced NHL tickets (and a valid reason to root against the Leafs).

Bettman has his head stuck up inside his body cavity in a way that apparently is far easier to describe using vulgar language than not. Why NOT S. Ontario? – and why NOT Jim Ballsillie?

Gerry (Burlington)
Gerry (Burlington)
May 17, 2011 2:03 pm

As a person who grew up in Winnipeg I don’t think anyone from there has ever claimed there is Greater Winnipeg Area. It is what it is, a city of 650,000 plus (or in Millard numbers 65,000 or so) who love their sports and have only the blue bombers to go see. Entertainment dollar wise, this city doesn’t have alot of the competition for dollars that major markets have. Being a Jet season ticket holder is/was the thing to have. I do still think this team will have issues in wpg, however, you have the richest man in Canada owning them. I still believe there is an alterior motive at play here. Perhaps he wants to move them to be the 2nd city team in T.O. eventually.

As for the downtown appearance, that hasn’t changed, what has changed is the location of the arena. The old one was more in the suburbs (yes there are suburbs and a downtown in wpg.)

The biggest difference, is the old owner of the Jets Barry Shenkarow didn’t own the arena and wanted the city to build him one for free. As for the 15,000 capacity, yah will make it tougher, but i suspect the heavy premium costs will be on the tickets that people can afford to pay premium on.

I hope it works, I am not sure longterm it will, but there will be great interest and there will be fannies in the seats. If they still lose money, they may be on their way.

May 18, 2011 8:56 am

If this happens I think Brady deserves a lot of credit, he was the first local guy I heard really put out there last weekend that he got word from a Thrashers player that this is a strong possibility while everybody else was looking at Phoenix.

I also agree that there has been a lot of romanticizing how strong the market of Winnipeg is. I see we already have the owners asking for help on the dept of the arena.

May 19, 2011 9:04 am

The issue with winnipeg isnt ticket sales or gate at all. Almost assuredly for the forseeable future they will sell out.

Its the fact they are a drain rather than adding to TV revenues in any way. They are purely gate driven.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x