WINNIPEG - Rick Dudley and Craig Ramsay are in limbo.
As True North Sports and Entertainment awaits official approval from the NHL board of governors of the sale and relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg, Dudley and Ramsay still aren’t sure if they’ll be making the trip north.
True North chairman Mark Chipman began discussions with Atlanta Spirit employees on Tuesday after the official announcement was made and he went on record with comments about his respect for Dudley, a longtime hockey man who is currently the general manager.
“Rick Dudley is a guy who I’ve known for 15 years and have a high regard for,” said Chipman. “He and his staff have been preparing for the draft without any of the certainty that you’d hope to have as a professional. That really is a priority for us.”
The role of Manitoba Moose general manager Craig Heisinger has yet to be determined, but Chipman was adamant he’ll play a major role in hockey operations.
“I don’t know what the title will be. Call it vital,” said Chipman. “I can’t explain the level of trust I have for him. He is a very, very highly regarded executive in this business. You know the numbers in Vancouver, the kids that have come through here through the draft and otherwise that Craig found. So he’ll have a vital role.”
In talking about the importance of drafting well, Chipman made a bold proclamation about the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, which goes June 24 and 25.
“We’re not trading that seventh overall pick, I can tell you that,” said Chipman.
Atlanta Spirit president and former Thrashers general manager Don Waddell will oversee things in Georgia during the transition of ownership and although he’s also known Chipman from the IHL days, he won’t accompany the team to Winnipeg.
“I’m going to stay here through the close of this business,” Waddell said during a conference call. “When we hand our keys over to Winnipeg, we want to hand it over in as best condition as we can. Assuming that happens sometime after the board of governors meeting and after this year’s draft, I’ll explore my options.
“I’ve been with the franchise for 13 years and it’s better that there’s a change there. Mark (Chipman) is a tremendous person and a tremendous operator. (The team is) in very good hands up there.”
Dudley, who signed a four-year extension last February, respectfully declined an interview request on Tuesday but is definitely interested in staying with the franchise as they move to Winnipeg.
Dudley and Ramsay are expected to have a discussion with Chipman regarding their future in the next day or two.
Ramsay, a respected teacher of the game and an associate coach when the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004, also wants to make the trek to Winnipeg.
“My wife (Susan) and I have just been sitting around and waiting. It’s very difficult with our future being up in the air,” said Ramsay. “I’ve been in the business a long time and I’ve seen a lot of things happen. There’s a lot of excitement about Winnipeg with our group, but until I talk to them, I don’t know what their feelings are.
“I was able to play in Winnipeg as a player and I know what it’s like. It’s a great hockey town. I know the people will be thrilled with having a team. I know it would be a lot of fun. I’d like to have the opportunity, but it’s not in my hands anymore.”