WINNIPEG - Commissioner Gary Bettman certainly didn’t sound like someone who was ready to step to a podium on Thursday to announce the return of the National Hockey League to Winnipeg.
While details continue to be worked out between True North Sports & Entertainment and the Atlanta Spirit Group regarding the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers, Bettman took umbrage with the suggestion a move was imminent when speaking to a Tampa radio station on Wednesday morning.
“I think you’re being a tad presumptuous on what’s going on in Atlanta,” Bettman told WDAE. “Nobody has announced anything and frankly, if there is something going on, nothing is going to actually happen until it actually happens, which means it may not happen.
“So people need to take a deep breath and pause.”
Bettman went on to suggest there are probably half a dozen places in North America that have expressed interest in owning an NHL team but that “we try to avoid relocation to the extent we can and we’ve been largely successful over the past 15 or so years in doing that.”
Meanwhile, one day after Dan Tencer of 630 CHED in Edmonton reported from multiple sources that the deal was done, The Hockey News had a story from Ken Campbell suggesting the same thing.
Campbell’s piece cites a source confirming the distribution of the 170 million as it pertains to a reported $60 million relocation fee — with the Atlanta Spirit Group receiving $20 million of the $60 million that is included in the purchase price.
The ASG also receives the $110 purchase price, with the remaining $40 million going to the NHL.
The article states the only thing left to be determined is the date of the announcement.
Although Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz was sticking to his prediction of it happening before the week is out, there are some suggestions word might not come down until after the Stanley Cup final and before the NHL Entry Draft.
However, if the Boston Bruins close out the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday, there would be ample time to make the announcement before the Stanley Cup final gets underway.
Once the announcement is made, True North is expected to launch a season ticket drive and must also work out the final details of where their American Hockey League affiliate will play in 2011-12.
A story in Wednesday’s The Telegram of St. John’s suggested a deal with St. John’s Sports and Entertainment might hinge on a government sponsored travel subsidy in the range of $500,000 annually.