RALEIGH — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman again declined to comment on the specifics of the recently filed litigation involving the Atlanta Spirit, owners of the Thrashers, but said: “There seems to be lots of litigation that goes on with respect to that franchise.”
Bettman spoke at a news conference Saturday from the NHL All-Star game. In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday, Bettman refused comment on the litigation or the claims it included. One of those claims was that the Thrashers have been for sale since shortly after the Atlanta Spirit purchased the team, the Hawks and Philips Arena.
The Spirit filed a $200 million malpractice lawsuit last Friday against an Atlanta law firm used in the buyout of a former partner Steve Belkin, claiming the firm’s negligence cost them millions of dollars and made them “unable to sell or otherwise dispose of the Atlanta Thrashers.”
Said Bettman: “My guess is this is another step in the journey for ownership trying to sort things out if they think they’ve been grieved by the lawyers representing them and will prosecute that case and collect any damages they are entitled to if the court finds in their favor.”
Bettman updated ownership issues in Phoenix, Dallas and Buffalo. He did not address the Thrashers until asked. He also reiterated the NHL’s stance that there are no plans to expand or relocate when asked about the prospects of Canadian cities Winnipeg and Quebec City getting a franchise.
Atlanta Spirit owners have stated publicly that they are looking for investors to replace Belkin. With regard to adding another ownership element to a group that spent nearly six years in court, Bettman said: “The last few years have been taxing on ownership from a financial standpoint in respect to the basketball team, the hockey team and the arena. If people are looking to restructure the economics to bring in more capital it might not be crazy for them to be seeking to add to the wherewithal to deal with those issues.”
Dustin Byfuglien broke the 100-mph mark with both his chances in the hardest-shot portion of the Super Skills competition Saturday night. The Thrashers’ defenseman defeated Columbus’ Rick Nash in his preliminary round with shots of 101.3 and 102.4 mph. However Boston’s Zdeno Charo defeated Nashville’s Shea Weber in the finals of the contest with a record shot of 105.9.
“Mostly I was just trying to break 100,” Byfuglien said. “That was my goal.”
Byfuglien was also a part of the skills-challenge relay. His team finished with the third fastest time, with Byfuglien one of the one-timer shooters.
Other individual winners were: New York Islanders’ Michael Grabner, fastest skater; Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin, breakaway challenge; Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin, accuracy shooting. Following the Shootout Challenge, Team Staal defeated Team Lidstrom 33-22.
“It was lots of fun,” Byfuglien said. “Any time you get to go out there with all those good guys and get to see what they can showcase and be a part of it, it’s always good.”
According to reports out of Sweden, Thrashers prospect Carl Klingberg, a second-round pick in 2009, will switch teams in the Swedish Elite League. Klingberg will move from Frolunda to Timra, according to the report. Klingberg’s Frolunda coach was quoted as saying Klingberg was unhappy playing for the team.
If the Thrashers choose, Klingberg could be signed to a contract with AHL Chicago following the Swedish Elite season.