5/25/2011 12:00:00 AM
After years of waiting and weeks of negotiating, Winnipeg has NHL hockey back. Multiple sources, speaking on conditions of anonymity, told me on Tuesday night that a sale agreement between Atlanta Spirit Group and True North Sports and Entertainment had been completed and signed off in a move that will see the Thrashers relocate to Manitoba, effective next season. The deal was finally consummated in Atlanta on Tuesday with representatives from both sides present.
The purchase price paid by True North is $170M USD. Exact terms of the deal were not readily available, though it has been speculated that the NHL will garnish $60M USD as a relocation fee. Earlier in the week, the same sources told me that an announcement was expected on Wednesday, though that has not been confirmed at this hour. It is believed that the announcement will take place at MTS Centre, where the team will play, and those close to the execution of the news conference have been previously told to expect very short notice.
The NHL Board of Governors have long since has an understanding with True North as to the expected course of acquiring a franchise. Over the last many years, which have seen at least one team approach True North directly about a purchase, guidelines have been set and followed. One such understanding is that no negotiations were to be held without NHL BOG approval and that no season ticket drives were to be initiated.
However, now that a sale agreement has been put into place, a season ticket drive will commence prior to a BOG vote. It is hoped that the drive will generate 13,000 season tickets sold with 3-5 year commitments in place.
Subsequent to the announcement of the sale, 2 BOG votes will be necessary, one to approve the new ownership group and one to approve relocation of the franchise. Both are expected to be easily passed in favour.
The team name, not likely to be "Jets", is not expected to be immediately announced.