SAN JOSE - NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said reports that the Atlanta Thrashers are ready to pack their bags and move to Winnipeg are unsubstantiated Thursday.
Speaking before Game 7 of the Western semifinal between the Sharks and Red Wings at the HP Pavilion, Bettman said there is no impending move of the Thrashers to Winnipeg on the horizon.
After Glendale city council decided to support the Coyotes’ losses to the tune $25 million for another year, the focus has now turned to Winnipeg-based True North Sports and Entertainment buying the troubled Thrashers.
“Somebody is making stuff up,” said Bettman. “Where is the accountability from everybody who a month ago said Phoenix was definitely going? Whatever is being written is being made up.
“The ownership (group in Atlanta) is looking to sell, they have been and that process continues. Is there a deal today to sell the club and move it? No.”
Bettman said he doesn’t want any team to relocated, but did admit if a local ownership group can’t be found then there’s always a possibility a team could move.
“You know what my position is on franchise relocation,” said Bettman. “But, you also know, in instances where we’ve moved, it’s resulted in instances where nobody wanted to own the club there anymore.”
Bettman said the league has been working with the Atlanta ownership group to try to facilitate a sale but wouldn’t speculate the Thrashers’ owners have reached their breaking point and are ready to move.
“If they reaching the breaking point they would tell us,” he said. “Until they tell us, ‘This is the breaking point. We’re done.’ There’s nothing to discuss.”
Bettman wouldn’t confirm the Thrashers’ owners have held talks with True North or anybody else for that matter.
“Whether or not anybody is or isn’t having conversations that is not something we would confirm or deny one way or another because you know we don’t do that,” said Bettman. “If you want to ask (the Thrashers’ owners) go ask them, but I would never divulge, confirm or not.”
Bettman said he doesn’t believe the people of Winnipeg should be given false hopes and didn’t like the way the Coyotes’ process played out publicly.
“That’s the other part about this whole thing that I’ve objected to because why raise expectations?” asked Bettman. “Why should people in Winnipeg Tuesday night be sorely disappointed? That was unfair. That wasn’t right.
“You know what, Glendale had the right to do what it did. They want to hold onto (the Coyotes). They’re prepared to pay to hold onto this team.”