With former Atlanta Braves great Tom Glavine admitting he’s having no luck in putting together an ownership group for the Atlanta Thrashers, the rumor mill is working overtime in placing the team in Winnipeg for 2011-2012 — but there’s no deal yet, though negotiations have started.
There’s not exactly a long list of potential buyers in Atlanta for the NHL franchise: Glavine, who grew up a hockey fan in Michigan, has had discussions with Atlanta Spirit management about what it would take to buy the team, but his efforts to put together an ownership group have generated little enthusiasm among those who could afford it. Really, there’s very little enthusiasm anywhere in the Southern city to retain NHL hockey; the Spirit guys are determined to sell, and that’s that.
Of course, there’s much rejoicing in Winnipeg, where True North Sports & Entertainment has all its ducks in a row to acquire a team. Yes, there’s still plenty of issues there — Winnipeg is a very small market (only 694,668 in the metro area), there are few large companies headquartered there, and MTS Centre is a smaller facility, seating only 15,015 for hockey — but there’s a passionate fan base and TNSE has the potential to be a very good owner. Its track record managing MTS Centre has been successful on the financial side, with the arena being far busier than you’d expect for a market the size of Winnipeg (for example, in 2008 it was the 19th-busiest venue in the world). With negotiations underway, it’s starting to look good for the ‘Peg.
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