May 31 2011
Fifteen years after losing their beloved NHL franchise the Jets, Winnipeg rejoices as NHL hockey is returning to the Manitoba capital. The True North Sports and Entertainment group announced on Tuesday that they have completed a deal to purchase the Atlanta Thrashers and move them to Winnipeg in time for the 2011-12 season.
The sale is still pending NHL Board of Governors approval, which should occur on June 21 when the board meets in New York. The transfer of ownership requires 75 percent approval from the Board while relocation only needs a majority result. Both True North and the Atlanta Spirit ownership group signed off on the deal that had been in the works for several weeks. Legal teams representing the Spirit group, along with teams from True North and the National Hockey League spent Monday night and Tuesday morning completing the final details of the purchase. The franchise price is $170 million, which includes a relocation fee of $60 million. As determined by the NHL Board of Governors, the relocation fee will be distributed among the other 29 teams.
The team will play out of the MTS Centre, which opened in 2004 and has a capacity of just over 15,000 seats. With a population of 762,600, Winnipeg will be the smallest market among the 30 NHL cities. The team immediately announced a season-ticket sales campaign in which they will attempt to reach 13,000 subscribers in a drive that begins on Wednesday. A nickname for the team has not yet been selected although overwhelming sentimental support is to get the Jets name back. The Winnipeg/Manitoba Falcons or Bears have also been suggested and are the 2nd & 3rd options at the moment.