ATLANTA - First, the Flames. Now, the Thrashers.
The struggling NHL franchise was sold yesterday to a group that will move it to Winnipeg next season, making Atlanta the first city in the league's modern era to lose two teams. The Flames left for Calgary in 1980, and the Thrashers are following them to Canada three decades later.
"I want to thank all the Thrashers fans that supported us in Atlanta for my 2 years there. Very unfortunate there will be no NHL hockey," tweeted Evander Kane, one of the team's most promising young players. "I will miss the great people and city of Atlanta."
True North Sports and Entertainment announced the deal during a news conference at Winnipeg's MTS Centre, the 15,015-seat arena where the team will play. The news sparked a raucous celebration in Manitoba's largest city, which is rejoining the league after losing the Jets to Phoenix in 1996.
The new team could also be known as the Jets. The Thrashers name was coined by former owner Ted Turner and referred to the state bird of Georgia.
The deal is subject to approval of the league's owners, who will meet June 21 in New York.
"It's nice to be back in Winnipeg after all these years," said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who attended the True North news conference.
In Atlanta, there was little reaction other than a tearful news conference held by co-owner Michael Gearon.
The deal is reportedly worth $170 million, including a $60 million relocation fee that would be split by the rest of the owners.