Winnipeg back in NHL

Sam Borys (left) and Tyrel Stinson hold a Winnipeg Jets flag while standing atop the concrete...

Sam Borys (left) and Tyrel Stinson hold a Winnipeg Jets flag while standing atop the concrete pedestrian barricades at Portage and Main in Winnipeg. (STEPHEN RIPLEY/QMI AGENCY)

TED WYMAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:05 PM ET

The day Winnipeg hockey fans have been waiting for is at hand.

True North Sports and Entertainment has called a press conference for 11 a.m. local time, where it is expected to announce it has purchased the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers and will move the team to Winnipeg in time for next season.

NHL officials, including commissioner Gary Bettman, are expected to be in attendance.

True North, owned by Mark Chipman and backed by billionaire David Thomson, has been negotiating for weeks to buy the Thrashers from the Atlanta Spirit Group. The sides went deep into the night putting the finishing touches on the deal so an announcement could be made today.

Reports have indicated True North will pay $170 million to complete the deal, with $110 million going to the Atlanta Spirit Group and $60 million going to the NHL for a relocation fee.

The announcement comes 15 years after the Winnipeg Jets left Winnipeg, relocating to Phoenix to become the Coyotes. It also comes two years after talk first surfaced that the Coyotes could move back to Winnipeg.

The Coyotes were given a stay of execution last month when city council in Glendale, Ariz., voted to pay $25 million to keep the team around for another year.

True North immediately fixed its sights on the Thrashers and after an intense negotiation, it appears the deal is finally done.

No announcement has been made as to what the new team will be called. While many fans are hopeful the Jets name will be revived, it’s possible True North will go in a different direction.

The Thrashers are a good, young team led by big defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, who won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks last season while playing forward. Forward Evander Kane is just 19 and has a bright future, as does Bryan Little, 23. Andrew Ladd, who led the team in scoring this season, is one of several restricted free agents.

The Thrashers have the seventh pick in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, June 24-25 in Minnesota.

It’s expected the team will continue to play in the Southeast Division of the NHL’s Eastern Conference next season as there is not time for the league to undergo a full re-alignment.

That means many of the Winnipeg team’s games will come against the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning and there will be four games apiece against teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers.

Check back often as the Winnipeg Sun will be updating this story as it develops.


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