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article imageNHL approves Thrashers sale, move to Winnipeg

By Andrew Ardizzi     Jun 21, 2011 in Sports
New York - The NHL board of governors unanimously approved the sale and relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg for the 2011-12 season on June 21.
True North Sports and Entertainment purchased the Thrashers last month and immediately announced their intention to move the team to Winnipeg, which lost the Jets to Phoenix after the 1995-96 season.
"We are very honoured by the NHL board of governors' unanimous decision today," Mark Chipman, True North's chairman of the board, said in a statement. "We know the fans of this province have an appetite for NHL hockey that is rivalled by few and intend to work very hard to make Manitobans proud of our franchise for years to come."
CBC News reports the sale is worth $170-million US, including a $60-million relocation fee that will be split by the league's remaining owners.
The Thrashers are the fifth team to relocate since Gary Bettman became league commissioner in 1993.
"It's a sad day for hockey fans in Atlanta, but the franchise is going to a good place and run by good people," Thrashers president Don Waddell said. "I wish them well, because (there are) a lot of good people that are going to go with them."
The Montreal Gazette reported Mr. Bettman was regretful that the Thrashers' owners couldn't find local ownership to keep the franchise in Atlanta, but was delighted hockey was returning to Winnipeg where a ready and ravenous fan base awaits the NHL's return to their city.
The league additionally confirmed Winnipeg will continue to play in the NHL's Southeast division for 2011-12 where the Hurricanes, Panthers, Lightening and Capitals also call home, although a divisional realignment is expected to take place before the 2012-13 season.
Although the approval process is complete, a name has not yet been chosen for the franchise.
Chipman has said he would like to keep the Moose name, a brand he has built over the last 15 years since moving an American Hockey League (AHL) franchise from Minnesota to Winnipeg in 1996.
There is however a groundswell of support from within the city to re-christen their new team as the Jets in honour of the city's original franchise.
Curt Keilback, a former announcer for the Jets, told CBC he favours the Jets name and that many others, Jets alumni included, feel the same. The Jets history dates back to 1972 when the team played in the World Hockey Association (WHA) before moving to the NHL.
Despite that the NHL owns the rights to the Jets name, Mr. Bettman recently said if True North wished to use the name they would make it available, CBC reports.
Even without a team name, True North launched a season ticket drive shortly after purchasing the team and hoped to sell 13,000 ticket packages to indicate to the board of governors that the city was committed to the team.
CBC reported the 13,000 goal was reached within two minutes of tickets going on sale, while another 8,000 names are on a waiting list.
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