"Just when you thought it was going to be the Coyotes moving back to Winnipeg, turns out it might be the Thrashers relocating instead." – Fleet Admiral Wanye von Gretz IV May 16, 2011.
The always observant Citizen of the Nation Oil Kings ‘n’ Pretty Things busted out a Hoorah in the comments section in a Lowetide article today with a link to the following article which was posted about half an hour ago as ‘Breaking News’ on the Winnipeg Free Press website:
"Atlanta Thrashers beat writer Chris Vivlamore is reporting that True North Sports and Entertainment is in negotiations with the Atlanta Spirit Group to purchase the Atlanta Thrashers. Vivlamore tweeted the following Monday morning.
"I have confirmed that the Atlanta Spirit and True North are in negotiations about sale and relocation of Thrashers. Story to come soon."
True North spokesman Scott Brown told the Free Press "no comment," as did NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly when confronted with this report."
Reams of print and acres of digitial e-ink have been devoted to the woes off the ice in Phoenix in the past couple of years. The fact that the Thrashers could be this close to moving with substantially less fanfare speaks to the dire economic situation in many US markets than the popularity of NHL hockey south of the border.
In many markets it isn’t a case of hockey being an unsaleable product to Americans. Instead it has everything to do with the underpinnings of the economy coming undone in many of these cities.
The Georgian unemployment rate hit an all time high in January of 2011 at 10.4%. Considering the suspicious way that the Americans calculate these statistics – removing anyone who has been on the economic sidelines for several quarters in a row from the list of the unemployed – the number of unemployed could be substantially higher.
The long term unemployed has jumped by nearly half in the past year:
"There were 262,700 long-term unemployed Georgians in January — those who have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer. This marks a 47.1 percent jump over January 2010. The long-term unemployed now account for a record high 54.2 percent of the 484,668 jobless workers in Georgia."
The group that owns the Thrashers, the NBA Hawks and the arena have been piling up massive hockey related losses in recent years.
"The Atlanta Spirit group, which also owns the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena, has been looking to sell the Thrashers for years, claiming losses of $130 million US since it bought the team in September 2003. A viable local buyer has not yet emerged, sparking speculation that the team could be on the move."
The spotlight of the Canadian media following this story will shift from PHX and will now fall squarely on ATL. It will be interesting to see how this develops.