Winnipeg will finally be able to celebrate at Portage and Main as the announcement was finally made Tuesday confirming the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers to True North. The deal comes weeks after it was announced to be complete, but neither side would confirm that a deal was done.
"In a sense, I guess you could say that True North, our city and our province has received the call we've long since been waiting for," said chairman Mark Chipman in a press conference Tuesday.
After the long drawn-out process of the Phoenix Coyotes was pushed yet another year by its City Council, eyes turned to Atlanta, who have been struggling in Georgia since expansion and were looking for a buyer.
Negotiations began and soon it was reported that a deal had been reached, a report both the NHL and True North denied. Now less than two weeks later, True North has announced the sale and re-location pending a vote by the NHL Board of Governors, who will meet on June 21 just prior to the 2011 Entry Draft.
The sale of the team requires a 75 percent approval from the Board of Governors, while relocation only needs majority support.
The team will almost certainly lose the "Thrashers" moniker, as most have argued that the "Jets" should be returned to their rightful home. As of right now the NHL still owns the rights to the Jets name after it was changed to the Coyotes when the team relocated to Phoenix in 1996.
Whatever they're called, the team will play at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, which is owned by True North and is also home to the Manitoba Moose. Speculation has been raised about the possible relocation of the Moose too, if the Thrashers deal went through. The Moose are currently the AHL farm team to the Vancouver Canucks.
Media outlets were told
to be ready for an announcement Tuesday, as the NHL's commissioner Gary Bettman was on hand to announce the sale as well. True North also announced a season-ticket drive, which they hope will be able to generate 13,000 guaranteed filled seats next year by the time the Board of Governors meets.
Fans from all over Manitoba have gathered in the heart of Winnipeg's downtown at Portage and Main, and the celebration will likely continue into the night as police have admitted they will be turning a blind eye
to open-liquor laws in a public place, until someone puts themselves or others at risk.
As fans gathered in the intersection, eyes fixed on televisions as the announcement was made, and a road hockey game broke out in the now closed intersection downtown Winnipeg. In the coming weeks more will be known about the approval of the deal, just in time for the NHL Entry Draft, where Winnipeg would draft 7th overall.