WINNIPEG - Is another domino in the return of the NHL to Winnipeg saga ready to fall?
The Telegram newspaper in St. John’s, N.L., reported Saturday the AHL’s Manitoba Moose will be moving to the Newfoundland capital to play next season and a press conference to announce the details would be held on Friday.
True North Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Moose, denied the details of the story.
“There is no agreement in place between the Moose and a group in St. John’s, and there is no press conference on Friday to announce such a move,” Scott Brown, True North’s director of corporate communications and hockey operations, said Saturday.
The Telegram’s Robin Short reported True North would continue to own the Moose next season and the team would become the AHL affiliate of Winnipeg’s new NHL franchise. That would force Manitoba’s parent club, the Vancouver Canucks, to find a new affiliate.
The relocation of the Moose, according to Short, is contingent upon True North finalizing its deal to purchase the Atlanta Thrashers from Atlanta Spirit and relocate them to Winnipeg. The Globe and Mail reported Thursday that transaction is complete and the Winnipeg Sun’s Tom Brodbeck got confirmation on Friday an agreement in principle has been reached and lawyers are continuing to hammer out the details.
The Globe and Mail story originally indicated an announcement would be made in Winnipeg on Tuesday, but the Toronto newspaper reported late Friday the press conference may be delayed. True North, Atlanta Spirit and the NHL deny a deal is done.
Thrashers general manager Rick Dudley appeared on Sportsnet’s Memorial Cup broadcast from Mississauga, Ont., on Saturday night and said he has heard nothing from team officials about a potential move.
“I’m working for the Atlanta Thrashers, which is who I’m the general manager of right now and I have no idea on the rest of it,” Dudley told the network. “This is something I can’t control. I don’t even want to know, to be honest with you, because it can only be a distraction to what I’m trying to do here.”
The Moose, who moved to Winnipeg from Minnesota 15 years ago, have spent the last 10 years in the AHL and five before that in the IHL. The St. John’s Maple Leafs played in the AHL for 14 seasons, from 1991 and 2005, before moving to Toronto six years ago.
The Telegram also reported former Newfoundland premier Danny Williams would ultimately purchase the Moose from True North, likely after the 2011-12 AHL season. A Newfoundland group that includes Williams has been negotiating with True North and its chairman, Mark Chipman, for several weeks, according to the story.
While the Moose franchise would be moving to The Rock, those on the team who are under contract to the Canucks would not be headed east. One possible location for Vancouver’s farm team is Chicago, as the Wolves are Atlanta’s affiliate and would need a new parent club.