For the first time in a long time, the Atlanta Thrashers are relevant in the big picture of the NHL, but what does it really mean?
Despite being tied for fifth in the eastern conference and sitting five games over .500, the Thrashers are looking for new investors or a new owner as the team brass is left to wonder if hockey will ever ‘work’ in Atlanta.
In fifteen home games this season, the Thrashers are averaging 11,789 fans in a building that can potentially hold 18,750, putting them ahead of only the Islanders and the Coyotes in terms of butts in seats (or tickets sold and empty seats).
So, the obvious question is: When are they moving to Canada and will it be Winnipeg or Quebec City? It’s not as easy as that, Thrashers president Don Waddell tells ESPN:
“I don’t believe Gary Bettman’s going to allow someone to come in and buy it and move it. The league’s not going to allow it to happen…We’re putting a good product on the ice, we have a chance to have a successful year. Now the challenge goes back to the fans.”
Those comments only play into the Canadian paranoia that the NHL doesn’t want another team in our country for some reason, but ESPN's Scott Burnside notes that the Thrashers seem to be a team that could be moved if it came down to it.
Part of the problem with the Phoenix Coyotes is that arena that would be without a tenant should the team leave. The Thrashers share a building, which the current owners of the team also own, with the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA. Burnside points out that because of that, the team could potentially be bought and relocated without much fuss.
Are you listening David Thompson?
Yes, says the Winnipeg Free-Press, who report that if there is something going on, despite denials from the Thrashers, there’s a very good chance Thompson has something to do with it.
Speaking of the Phoenix Coyotes, it looks like the ownership saga in Glendale may be very close to finally being over.
The only big hurdle left for Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer is negotiating with the city over a lease for Jobing.com Arena, after he was given the backing of an NHL board of governors committee on Monday. Don’t get too optimistic just yet though – many have tried and failed to work out a lease with the city of Glendale, or at least that’s the way it seems.
December 14th will either be the day the Coyotes take another step toward not being owned by the league, or it’s the day the city of Glendale fails to stop the bleeding once again!
If this sale doesn’t go through, look for the doors to swing wide open, with relocation a real possibility for the first time since this whole ownership thing started. The NHL has a deadline of December 31st for Hulsizer to get the job done; if not, it may be ‘welcome home Jets!’
Are you listening David Thompson?
Apart from the Thrashers and the Coyotes, there are two other teams that have been brought up when it comes to buying and selling: the Buffalo Sabres and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Buffalo News has a great profile on Terry Pegula, a billionaire they describe as a “Buffalo kind of guy” who is apparently in talks to take the team off the hands of Tom Golisano. The problem is that the whole story is built on “sources” and “people close to the situation” talking about a potential sale, while Golisano denies it and Pegula won’t say anything.
As for the Leafs – rumor had it that Rogers Communications was looking into buying the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan’s 66 percent stake in Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment this past week. That’s the company that owns the Maple Leafs, the Raptors, Toronto FC and the Toronto Marlies.
According to TSN, the pension fund came out late last week and said it has no plans to sell the shares, which turn a profit of as much as $70-million per year. Dropping an investment that pulls in that kind of dough yearly would be a pretty dumb move for a pension plan to make, so it’s not all too surprising that it isn’t happening. Think about it, they’re making that much money off a bunch of teams that aren’t very good – the Leafs have missed the playoffs in five straight seasons, the Raptors have been past the first round once in 15 years and Toronto FC hasn’t made the playoffs since joining the MLS in 2007 – even the Toronto Marlies have only been out of the first round once in five years. Imagine what that stock would be worth if those teams actually did something!
It seems there’s a lot of movement on the ownership side of things – whether or not that results in any actual movement is still yet to be seen!