Thrashers deal awaiting rubber stamp

Hockey fans rally at Portage and Main streets in Winnipeg, Man., May 19, 2011. (STEPHEN RIPLEY/QMI...

Hockey fans rally at Portage and Main streets in Winnipeg, Man., May 19, 2011. (STEPHEN RIPLEY/QMI Agency)

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:59 AM ET

WINNIPEG - It’s akin to violins playing on the deck of the sinking Titanic, but the Atlanta Thrashers continue to sell season tickets for the 2011-12 NHL season.

A source confirmed to the Winnipeg Sun on Friday an agreement for True North Sports and Entertainment to purchase the Thrashers from Atlanta Spirit and move them to Manitoba is complete.\

All that’s left is for the NHL’s board of governors to rubber stamp the deal and for True North to hold a press conference. The Globe and Mail’s Stephen Brunt, who broke the story on Thursday, said that will likely occur on Tuesday.

True North and the NHL have both denied a deal is done, which may be why the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Chris Vivlamore reported Friday morning the Thrashers are still selling season tickets for next season and their select-a-seat promotion scheduled for Saturday is going ahead.

“I’ve been told the Thrashers are still selling season tickets — with at least one being sold Friday,” Vivlamore wrote on his Twitter feed.

Thrashers fans are also scheduled to hold a rally in downtown Atlanta on Saturday, but it appears to be too little, too late.

“We’re going to go have a good time and hang out with our hockey family,” Lisa Lewis, president of the Thrashers fan club, told The Associated Press. “If it’s our last time, well, at least we get that chance.”

Manitoba hockey fans reacted with glee to Thursday night’s news, as a couple of hundred flocked o Winnipeg’s famous Portage and Main intersection to play road hockey and chant “Go Jets Go!” for several hours.

It’s not known what Winnipeg’s NHL team will be called, but it appears the overwhelming favourite is to bring back the Jets, who left the city for Phoenix in 1996.

The Thrashers players appear to still be in the dark about the situation, but at least one member of the team saw some positives in a move north of the border.

“There’s definitely things that would be really cool about it,” goaltender Chris Mason told The Canadian Press. “Playing in Canada, for me, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. It would be really cool.

“Just playing in front of a packed house every night would be awesome.”

It’s not known which division Winnipeg’s team would play in, although there is speculation they would stay in the Southeast Division for one year with the Washington Capitals, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes. The Thrashers, who spent 12 seasons in Atlanta, played in the Southeast.

Vancouver Canucks assistant coach Rick Bowness spent time with the Jets as both a player and a coach. He believes players won’t have a problem with the Manitoba capital.

“Players are treated so well there,” Bowness told ESPN.com. “There is only one player in all the years of the Jets that I can ever remember complaining about being there. Every player who ever went there loved it, loved the way they were treated, loved the community.

“The community really made you feel part of it. Players will enjoy playing there.”

It’s likely the purchase agreement will be conditional upon True North selling enough season tickets to ensure they will get the financial support they need to run an NHL franchise.

True North chairman Mark Chipman said as much in this telling statement during an interview with the Sun in January 2005.

“That’ll be a very interesting exercise to go through,” Chipman said at the time. “If everything else lined itself up … you could probably put it to the community and find out pretty quick whether or not that would fly.”

Meet your Thrashers

Forwards

PLAYER — 2011-12 CONTRACT STATUS

Nik Antropov – $4,050,000

Evander Kane — $3,100,000

Bryan Little — $2,400,000

Andrew Ladd — Restricted free agent

Blake Wheeler — Restricted free agent

Radek Dvorak — Restricted free agent

Alex Burmistrov — $1,500,000

Jim Slater — $1,000,000

Rob Schremp — Restricted free agent

Chris Thorburn — $875,000

Eric Boulton — Unrestricted free agent

Anthony Stewart — Restricted free agent

Defencemen

Dustin Byfuglien — $5,200,000

Ron Hainsey — $450,000,000 (NTC)

Tobias Enstrom — $3,750,000

Johnny Oduya — $3,500,000

Zach Bogosian — Restricted free agent

Mark Stuart — $1,700,000

Goaltenders

Chris Mason — $1,850,000

Ondrej Pavelec — $1,150,000


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