|Rob Schremp celebrates after scoring the last game winning goal ever for the Thrashers. (Getty Images)|
"It's nice to be back in Winnipeg after all these years," said NHL commisioner Gary Bettman. "Mark [Chipman] has been pursuing the NHL for a number of years, quietly and obviously, quite effectively.
"This venue, the MTS Centre, will be a fine, fine home for an NHL club and there is the strength of the prospective ownership group," Bettman said. "We get to be back in a place we wish we had never left in 1996."
True North has been negotiating with the Atlanta Spirit Group on the Thrashers franchise purchase since early May.
The agreement was finalized this morning, Bettman said, with key players still working on the deal on a conference call at 4:30 ET this morning.
No announcement has been made yet as to what the team will be named. Of course, the popular sentiment is to name the team "Jets", after the former Winnipeg Jets (now Phoenix Coyotes) who left due to a lack of potential owners back in 1996. Since then, the city has desired an NHL team, and now that they appear to be getting one (pending NHL approval, which should come in the next month or so), naming them the Winnipeg Jets would be ideal. However, it is unclear whether this could actually happen considering the Jets name is still likely owned by somebody, most likely the Coyotes franchise.
|(Photo courtesy of Vancouver Canucks)|
As far as hockey in Atlanta goes, I doubt the NHL will be looking to return anytime soon. While Atlanta may someday be a great place for hockey, both teams that have been there (the Flames, now in Calgary, and the Thrashers, soon to be in Winnipeg) have not lasted very long. To give you an idea, the Thrashers were founded in 1999, and they were the longest lasting NHL team in Atlanta. Star players (Marc Savard, Dany Heatley, Marian Hossa, Ilya Kovalchuk) had come and gone from the city, and they only made the playoffs once as the Thrashers. As far as future NHL franchises go, I think Quebec City and the Pacific Northwest (once they get proper arenas) would have to be next in line, along with maybe another team in the greater Toronto area.
And please call the team the Winnipeg Jets.