Thursday, May 19, 2011
The word out of Winnipeg is that the group that owns the Manitoba Moose has purchased the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers and will be moving the team to Winnipeg.
The Thrashers have long been one of the NHL's failing franchises, and they've been propped up by an ownership group that, along with owning the team, also owned the arena and were willing to keep them so as to keep the building occupied. But the losses have just been too much, and nobody in Georgia has expressed any interest in buying the team, thus the Winnipeg group has swept in and purchased the team.
The deal isn't official -- there's no announcement from the NHL yet -- but Gary Bettman will probably be banned from Canada should he attempt to stop this deal. It's also not sure when the team would actually move to Winnipeg, whether to start the upcoming 2011/2012 season or if they would hold off for the 2012/2013 season.
This does, of course, mean that the AHL could be down a franchise at some point, kind of like how the Edmonton Oilers held onto the ownership rights of their Edmonton AHL franchise but refused to actually put a team on the ice until placing their franchise in Oklahoma City this past season. So the Manitoba group could just not field a team, they could move the Moose to another city since they will still own the rights to the franchise, or they could sell the rights to another group.
The odds are the Moose will be relocating, it's just a question of when or where. And once that happens, we'll probably see more division and conference shake-ups.
UPDATE: Okay, according to True North, the group that is supposedly buying the Thrashers, this is not a done deal.