After years in court to gain control of Philips Arena and its assets, it appears as though Atlanta Spirit is finally succumbing to the inevitable conclusion: that the small but loyal fan base of the Atlanta Thrashers isn’t enough to make the team a business success, and a sale of the franchise is in the cards.
That the team is on the market is now openly admitted in public, as Reese McCranie, a spokesman for Mayor Kasim Reed, says the city has tried to put together a local ownership group to buy the team, to no avail.
“We are aware that the ownership of the Thrashers is having difficulty and they may leave,” McCranie told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. “The mayor has had robust discussions with business leaders in the metro region [who might] potentially buy or join a team of buyers to keep the Thrashers here. He has gone through extraordinary lengths to ensure that the Thrashers can stay in Atlanta, but at this moment, there is not a deal on the table that we can present.”
And when asked whether the Thrashers would be returning to Atlanta next season, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly was pretty blunt: â€œNope. I canâ€™t guarantee that.â€
Let’s be realistic: the guys behind Atlanta Spirit are big, big basketball fans; their passion was in buying the Atlanta Hawks. They’re not so much in the way of hockey fans, and the way the two franchises are run show this: the Hawks get pretty much whatever they want in terms of resources, and Don Waddell runs the Thrashers on a wing and a prayer.
With sources indicating the True North ownership has talking with the Spirit owners, there are some strong indications that the team could end up in Winnipeg next season. It would not be the first time an Atlanta NHL fled to the north: remember, the Calgary Flames began life as the expansion Atlanta Flames.
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