WINNIPEG - Don Waddell continues to hold out hope the Atlanta Thrashers will remain in Georgia.
The Thrashers president, in response to a television report that indicated a filmmaker is interested in buying the team, released a statement to the Atlanta media on Friday saying anything could still happen in the continuing saga.
“Along with all other groups who have expressed an interest in pursuing an ownership opportunity, which has happened as recently as earlier this week, we have said continuously that until an agreement is signed and approved by the board of governors it’s never too late, but they will have to move very quickly and decisively,” Waddell wrote.
“Ownership still is committed to selling at a greatly reduced price to anyone committed to Atlanta.”
The reported price of the Thrashers for Winnipeg’s True North Sports and Entertainment is $170 million, including a $60 million relocation fee that would go to the NHL.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the new suitor entered the picture on Thursday but added the interest is very much in the preliminary stage.
One of the Thrashers’ co-owners, Michael Gearon, said on Wednesday a deal to sell the team to True North and relocate it to Winnipeg was 80% complete.
As Waddell pointed out, if the deal is completed with True North, it would not be official until the NHL’s board of governors approve it at a June meeting. If a buyer stepped up in the interim and worked out a deal to buy the Thrashers and keep them in Atlanta, Winnipeg would be out of luck.
Meanwhile, Thrashers forward Eric Boulton spoke out on Saturday to Atlanta’s FOX television affiliate, expressing his displeasure with the Atlanta Spirit ownership group.
“The core group of hockey fans here is great, and they are very passionate,” Boulton said. “We have to have a little bit more success on the ice, and I don’t blame the fans one bit here.
“If we had a little bit better leadership coming from the top and a little bit more security and I think a little bit more commitment to winning, we’d be on the right track here. I just hope time doesn’t run out here.”
If time does run out on the Thrashers in Atlanta, a press conference in Winnipeg is not expected before Tuesday due to the Memorial Day weekend in the U.S.