We now take a break from our regularly scheduled update on the soap opera that is the Phoenix Coyotes saga to talk about a team that could be on the move shortly after the NHL season ends.
Speculation is growing that the Atlanta Thrashers could be ready for relocation before the Phoenix Coyotes mess is settled.
Now we’re not going to put too much stock into rumours and conjecture, but there are some factors which can’t be ignored when it comes to the Thrashers:
— Their majority owner recently said the team has lost $130 million over the last six years and the team may have to relocate if new investors can’t be found.
— Atlanta Spirit, which currently owns the Thrashers, the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and Phillips Arena, has indicated there are two parties kicking tires on the Thrashers but nobody has come forward with a firm offer as of yet.
— NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has expressed concern about the situation, but none of the defiance he displays regarding any mention of a Coyotes relocation.
— The Thrashers are 28th in the NHL in attendance and their building has been filled to just 71.7% of capacity this season.
— The Thrashers season will almost certainly end on Sunday, April 10, when they miss the playoffs for the 10th time in their 11 NHL seasons.
If, by chance, the Thrashers are being fast-tracked for sale and relocation, as some NHL people are speculating, they could be available before the Phoenix Coyotes, who are stuck in a quagmire, with an owner who doesn’t want to spend his own money and a government watchdog that doesn’t want public cash spent on a perennial money loser.
The stalemate over the proposed sale of the Coyotes to Matthew Hulsizer has dragged on for months and, if the deal collapses and the team is put on the open market, it certainly won’t happen until the Coyotes are eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs.
If the Thrashers become available, and we realize that’s a big if, the ownership group in Winnipeg is not likely to wait around for the Coyotes situation to resolve itself.
So some potential good news for all those people sick and tired of waiting for something to break regarding the Coyotes.
Maybe all the stars will align and you won’t have to wait till the end of the Coyotes season after all.
Then again, as we’ve learned from the tantalizing, frustrating, complicated Coyotes saga, it’s probably best not to hold your breath.
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