Clock ticking on future of Thrashers
ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency
|Move over, fans of the Quebec Nordiques. It looks like Winnipeg is in the hunt to host a Thrashers move.
With no more than three weeks left before a decision has to be made on the fate of the Atlanta Thrashers, a source close to the situation said Saturday he believes the “chances are good” the Thrashers will relocate to Winnipeg.
The schedule-makers can wait until no later than the first week of June before the NHL needs to know where the franchise will play during the 2011/12 season.
Staff with the Atlanta Spirit and True North Sports and Entertainment in Winnipeg have been told not to comment after NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said earlier this week he couldn’t guarantee the Thrashers would be in Atlanta next year.
While the league is being criticized by some for not trying hard enough to keep the team in Atlanta, the fact is the situation is different than in Phoenix, where the club is owned by the league and lawsuits are involved.
There simply appears to be no interest in anyone keeping the poorly-run team in the eighth-ranked U.S. TV market. The question now is whether the league has finally granted Thrashers owners permission to deal with True North.
You bet they will, if they haven’t already.
A True North representative declined comment Saturday.
The relocation fee would be US$60 million on top of the sale price, making it palatable to the other owners.
If they do move, there will not be time for the divisional re-alignment the Detroit Red Wings have been pushing for for years due to travel, cost and media concerns. here isn’t enough time for the board of governors to vote on it, although it’s almost certain the Wings would be back in the Eastern Conference the following year.
While the coroner’s office confirmed Saturday it could take weeks before the cause of Derek Boogaard’s death is known, the conclusion some made right away is that it may somehow be related to the concussion that cut short his season. Quite a stretch, but symbolic of just how big an issue brain injuries have become.
In that vein, the family told reporter Mike Russo late Saturday they will donate his brain to Boston University medical researchers to study, amongst other things, the effects of concussions.
The 28-year-old enforcer’s death Friday is being investigated by Hennepin County ME Office and the Minnesota-area homicide unit, though foul play is not suspected. Boogaard, who had 70 NHL fights, was scheduled to make $1.625 million each of the next three years with the New York Rangers.
Long Island saved?
The plan hatched by New York Islanders owner Charles Wang and Nassau County officials to build a $400-million arena and minor baseball stadium may just be crazy enough to work.
A stand-alone referendum on the issue will be held in the dead of summer (Monday, Aug. 1), at which time only diehard fans and union supporters hoping to bolster a weak job market will likely be bothered to drive to the polls to save the franchise.
Claiming the rink won’t cost taxpayers a dime, Wang said the 30-year financing would be repaid through revenue from the facilities.
The signing of popular rookie Michael Grabner the next day was not a coincidence as Wang and high-profile Islanders like John Tavares will now be used to push hard for a stadium deal that will meet very little vocal opposition.
Don’t be surprised if Wang also makes a bit of a splash with more player signings in and around July 1 to help boost momentum for the referendum.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock told the Sun Saturday he takes great exception to media suggestions the Mike Modano experiment in Detroit was a failure.
Despite being a healthy scratch for all but the last two playoff games, Babcock said the 40-year-old forward never let his ego get in the way of being a good teammate. He likened it to the role respected but aging leaders like Lanny McDonald, Jim Peplinski and Tim Hunter played in Calgary when they won the Cup.
“Part of your legacy is how you handle yourself when things aren’t so good, and he handled himself unbelievably,” said Babcock.
“He wanted to be part of something and that was a great message to the team.”