Vote in Arizona could go long way in determining fate of Thrashers

The clock could start ticking on the Thrashers this week – and it could move quickly.

On Tuesday, the city of Glendale will vote on whether to pay another $25 million to the NHL. That money would be used by the league-owned team, rescued from bankruptcy in 2009, for operating expenses and would keep the financially struggling team in Arizona for one more season. According to several media outlets, the proposal is expected to pass.

Last week the city of Glendale paid the NHL $25 million for operating losses for last season.

The NHL is looking for an owner that will keep the team in Glendale. Efforts to sell to Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer have been ongoing for months in a complicated deal that has a local watchdog group threatening legal action.

The Phoenix franchise has been eyed by prospective buyer True North Sports and Entertainment, which would purchase the team and move it back to Winnipeg where it relocated from in 1996. However with the Coyotes staying in Arizona for at least another year, True North will likely turn its efforts, quickly, to the Thrashers, who have been for sale in earnest for several years. The Atlanta Spirit, owner of the Thrashers, Hawks and the operating rights to Philips Arena, have been looking for a buyer and/or investors and have said relocation is a possibility. Co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in February and again last week that there is a “sense of urgency” to find a solution to the financial losses suffered by the team. The Thrashers could fetch upwards of $170 million from True North with the NHL getting around $60 million as a relocation fee.

The Thrashers are not expected to be sold for that much to a buyer that would keep the team in Atlanta. Team president Don Waddell has been actively working with groups interested in purchasing the Thrashers. He told the AJC this week that there are currently two groups, both out of town, interested in purchasing the Thrashers and keeping them here. However, talks have not progressed beyond a preliminary stage. The clock on getting such a deal done could start with the Coyotes situation settled, at least temporarily.

The situation brings up three main issues concerned with the Thrashers.

1. Are the Spirit committed to selling to an owner that will keep the team in Atlanta even if it means turning down a potential offer and extending the search process? If offered such a sale price from True North, the owners could stand to make more money, minus capital calls, than their original cash investment in all three entities.

Co-owner Bruce Levenson and Gearon have said that keeping the Thrashers in Atlanta is their first choice. However, they have also made it clear they no longer desire to bear the financial responsibility of a franchise that is losing money, up to $130 million over the course of their ownership according to court documents. That figure does include the fact that a portion of arena revenues go directly to bond payments.

By selling and relocating the Thrashers, the Spirit does stand to lose additional revenue. It would lose a pro-rated amount on the $10 million annual naming rights to Philips Arena without an NHL occupant. It would also lose revenue associated with having 41 dates in the arena.

2. Will the NHL work with Atlanta, as it has with Phoenix, to avoid franchise relocation?

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has stated, on several occasions, that the NHL currently has no plans to relocate any franchise. The league has certainly worked to keep Phoenix in Arizona. While the league may not be willing to take on any financial responsibility for Atlanta, it could turn its full attention to helping resolve the ownership situation once the Phoenix situation, job No. 1 right now, is settled. Or not. The league could give its blessing to the Spirit to open talks with True North.

It would be puzzling if Bettman and the league dedicated months to trying to resolve said situation in Phoenix and not have a strong interest in keeping a team in Atlanta, the No. 8 television market.

3. There may not be enough time to get a sale and relocation completed in time for next season. Time figures to be an issue to sell and move the Thrashers to Winnipeg – or another city. The sale of a professional sports team is not an easy, nor a quick, process. The length of time it has taken to resolve the Phoenix situation would leave a short turnaround. However, the framework possibly in place on a Phoenix-Winnipeg deal could be used to move things along with the Thrashers. A similar situation occurred when the Spirit purchased the teams and rights to the arena after negotiations with Dallas businessman David McDavid were not completed.

The sale of Phoenix would help recoup the losses, footed by the NHL owners, from rescuing the franchise from bankruptcy and running it for two seasons. However, the league may not be in a hurry to relocate to a Winnipeg. They could wait another year to see what happens in Phoenix.

If the Thrashers were to leave for Winnipeg, there would almost certainly need to be a conference re-alignment to accommodate the move.

93 comments Add your comment

Jess

May 9th, 2011
3:23 pm

Another doom and gloom article filled with no new information.

The Real Thrash

May 9th, 2011
3:38 pm

schmeckdawg

May 9th, 2011
3:39 pm

Come on Arizona! Pony up the loot so we can get these bums out of here!

Thrashers addict

May 9th, 2011
3:41 pm

blah, blah, blah…Does anyone really have an answer??? Thrashers will stay in Atlanta for the 11-12 Season, the 12-13 season is the one that concerns me. Unless of course there is a run in the playoffs.

Thrashers addict

May 9th, 2011
3:47 pm

sure will be nice when the weather in Winnipeg is nice enough to go outside so these trolls can get off the computer and our blog….oh wait…that doesn’t happen…guess we will have to put up with them while we are enjoying a beautiful spring in Atlanta. No wonder our players don’t want to leave!!!

James Brown

May 9th, 2011
3:56 pm

Thinking same thing. Why even report this, same thing you have said 10 times with no new information. Your point #2 contradicts the whole story as well. Why would things happen so quickly if Bettman still has preference. How about something positive once in awhile to help build a fan base. Sad journalism imo.

[...] Journal Constitution:  Vote in Arizona could go long way in determining fate of Thrashers.   Last Saturday’s guest on the IC Radio show Chris Vivlamore with an informative [...]

Doug

May 9th, 2011
4:07 pm

Just move this two embarrassments to Canada already. Hockey will never work in Georgia or Arizona.

Puck Like A Porn Star

May 9th, 2011
4:13 pm

Best case scenario: Coyotes and Thrashers stay put, and Whiney Peg doesn’t get $#!t.

Plus, Winterpeg already has a hockey club: the Moose. Major league sports don’t belong in towns so small anyway.

BRUCE LEVINSON

May 9th, 2011
4:16 pm

DEAL WITH IT!!!!!

alex

May 9th, 2011
4:22 pm

Chris, are you rooting for relocation? it’s getting old.

Travis

May 9th, 2011
4:41 pm

Anybody ripping the reporter here is just off the tracks. This is good, solid reporting. Don’t kill the messenger.

Winnipeg Jet

May 9th, 2011
4:43 pm

Thrashers are destined for Pegville baby. You guys can still dream of the KNIGHTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

moriler

May 9th, 2011
4:54 pm

Thanks for feeding the trolls again, Viv.

Reality remains: Frozen Outpost gets nothing this year, maybe manages expansion a few years down the road OR gets the Coyotes back once Glendale gets tired of getting taken for a ride. Thrashers get purchased by someone and stay put.

Doug

May 9th, 2011
5:05 pm

Why would Manitoba want those Atlanta pansies anyway? As of today the Moose are still playing hocky!

Stu

May 9th, 2011
5:34 pm

I don’t think they will rush into moving Atlanta. The team has been for sale for a long time but after the fight the NHL has been putting up to keep a team in a smaller market that’s losing more money and has a worse arena situation from moving, I’d be surprised if they just pulled the plug on the Thrashers.

Chris Vivlamore

May 9th, 2011
5:48 pm

Travis: Thanks for being a voice of reason.

MacDougal

May 9th, 2011
6:13 pm

These Southron cities have no business in the NHL. Maybe a good AA team.
Back to Winnipeg with the Jets.

Mat"T"

May 9th, 2011
6:14 pm

Chris,

I can only imagine how frustrating it is that none of the sources who are directly involved in our situation in Atlanta are willing to go on the record. For that I am sorry since I know how the franchise goes so does your job. Still, I can’t help but recall the article that you chose to wrote the day prior to our last home game this season. You may not have intended for it to be as vindictive as it came across to us fans as it was shrouded in innuendos and cumulus nimbus clouds, but you lost a lot of credibility in this fan’s book that day.

The fans that have loved this franchise from its beginning in ‘97, who toured The Philips in the summer of ‘99 just salivating for the first puck to drop and have followed it through the Heatley tragedy, the triumph/disaster of our first playoff appearance, and the loss of Kovy last season have been through A LOT…..AND I MEAN A LOT!!! It seams like every small success of this franchise has been met with a greater failure.

The small few who have endured didn’t deserve what you dished out that weekend. We just wanted go to The Phil for one last time this season and enjoy what could have been the last NHL game in Georgia ever, and you had to take a leak all over it.

Maybe next season you can apply to be the beat writer for the Winnipeg Moose. Since The Thrashers will be here and the people who want to read your dribble will be up there.

LET’S GO THRASHERS!

Mat"T"

May 9th, 2011
6:22 pm

These “Southron” teams as you put it are about to be in The Stanley Cup Finals! Woohoo! DEAL WITH IT! THE SOUTH IS GONNA DO IT AGAIN! :)

Doug

May 9th, 2011
6:49 pm

The most “southern” player on Tampa’s roster is from Pittsburg. And they have to go thru Beantown.

Brendan

May 9th, 2011
7:05 pm

I think there was new information in this article. It lets us know when we could start hearing offers for the Thrashers. It also lets us know when we can start asking the Commissioner more pointed questions about relocation and timetables for it.

I have never once believed that the 2011-12 season was in jeopardy. But if relocation is going to happen, the 2012-13 would be the season it happens. If anyone thinks the Thrashers have trouble drawing now, imagine what it’d be like if the Octocluster puts out information indicating the 2012 season is a “lame duck” season. They’re not the sharpest knives in the drawer.

I doubt the Commissioner will embrace relocation, as my personal belief. Look no farther than the Hamilton deal, with Balsillie, who tried to bully the league into putting a team at Copps Coliseum, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. It doesn’t matter HOW MUCH MONEY a prospective buyer offers, it’s up to the league and Board of Governors/Trustees to approve the sale and relocation. If that doesn’t happen, nothing happens. The billionaire just keeps his money, shaking his head, frustratingly.

Is it BETTER for the NHL to be in Winnipeg than it is in Atlanta? I would think Atlanta wins that one. But, it wins it … when a ‘committed ownership’ is found, and properly vetted through the league offices. Iffff that happens, Atlanta would stop being a revenue-sharing dollar CONSUMER, and start becoming a revenue PRODUCER. This market set an NHL attendance record in 1999-2000. That’s the interest level for hockey, in Atlanta.

Okay, maybe this will set the record straight. “This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?” Change out that ad, for this one. “These are the Atlanta Thrashers when fans think ownership is trying to win. These are the Thrashers when the Octocluster is in charge. Any questions?”

I’m pretty sure that Gary Bettman is aware of the situation. I’m pretty sure that, he’s been plenty angry about it, expecting far more from the Atlanta market. But, he can’t complain too much, since it was HIS OFFICE that approved Turner, Time/Warner, and the Atlanta Spirit, LLC. It’s a vetting issue. Bettman’s office is far, far more scrutinizing now, having been through half a dozen UTTER FAILURES, on the ownership front, around the league. Just because someone has money, doesn’t mean they understand the dynamics of running an NHL franchise. Like keeping Waddell in charge, for a decade, without a playoff win. Just as a “for instance.”

This is going to be an ongoing saga, for the next year. If not longer. If bloggers are going to get angry with Chris Vivlamore every time he updates us, better book your anger management sessions now. It’s going to keep happening. And we should want to get updates from Vivlamore. Regularly.

Re: Trolls, when are you going to learn? It’s not rocket scien. Ignore them, and they go away. Respond to them, they’ll never leave. Blogger interaction with them … CAUSES the problem to fester. Learn … to … ignore. This team isn’t leaving for a minimum of one year. The Spirit Clowns cannot sell the team, without the blessings of the league. They don’t have those blessings. And it’s possible that they won’t get them any time soon. Which means, what? Well, sadly for the Spirit, it means they’ll have to reap what they’ve been sowing, lo these many years. If they’d watered the soil, and tilled the ground, perhaps they’d have a lovely field today, replete with fruit and vegetables, fresh from the harvest. Instead, they treated the Thrashers like a hot house flower, never watering it, and watching it wilting and slowly dying. All while saying things like, “We want you to be part of the ROAR of the crowd at Blueland.” “We’re doing everything in our power to bring the Stanley Cup to Atlanta.” “We think we’ve got a very good team.” Pfft. They’ve either been delusional, or spewing misinformation and propaganda, while their budgets reflect “lottery draft” type finishes. Many people sussed it out, and came here, to be vocal about their opposition to the disasterous way in which the franchise was being run.

Again, that’s up to Gary Bettman and his vetting process, to ensure that market situations are understood and met. The next owners of the Atlanta Thrashers, (keeping the team here,) will know and understand what is required of them, or they won’t be approved for the sale. This is about ‘control.’ Until new ownership actually GETS the team, they have to mind their “P’s” and “Q’s” and tell the Commissioner what he wants to hear. “Yes, we’ll have robust budgets.” “Yes, sir. We’ll hold GM’s and Coaches accountable for results.” “Yes, Mr. Commissioner. We’ll run a right-n-proper marketing campaign, to fill that arena. You can count on us.” What the new owners actually do, from THERE, is up to them. And if the new owners falter again, I’m sure the Commissioner will meet with them, to discuss the situation. The Spirit, LLC, had the EXCUSE that they’re hands were tied, due to pending litigation. That excuse has been removed. They’ll have to invent a new one, that placates the Commissioner. I’m sure Bettman does want the Thrashers to be sold, and kept in Atlanta, preferably, with a local ownership entity. But, how long that will take … is anyone’s guess. In the end, he may have to settle on ownership that is OUT OF TOWN, that keeps the Thrashers in Atlanta, for at least five years, etc. But Bettman holds the power. He’s got to do his homework, in vetting a new ownership group. This new ownership group … will have to submit a decent enough package/portfolio … to make the Commissioner believe that they are going to put a team together that will be competitive enough for a prolonged playoff success. Don’t misunderstand me, here. Gary Bettman is not looking for an ownership that will put the Stanley Cup in Atlanta. He’s merely looking for one that will TRY to make the team successful, such that it is a revenue PRODUCER for his league, the way the Atlanta market should be. When the NHL was looking for expansion, they targeted Atlanta for a REASON. They just didn’t figure on Waddell and the Spirit, LLC running things into the ground.

clark kent

May 9th, 2011
7:20 pm

What a giant load of shiite.

hockeymom92

May 9th, 2011
7:28 pm

Brendan – amen, amen and amen again.

C VIV – thanks for keeping us as updated as you are able

Disgusted 10-Year Thrashers Season Ticket Holder

May 9th, 2011
8:57 pm

Don’t let the Canadian Border hit you in the @$$ on the way to Winnipeg, Thrashers.

Burn in the Eternal Lake of Fire with bin Laden, Atlanta Spirit Group!

Corey

May 9th, 2011
9:01 pm

@Thrashers addict. nice enough to go outside?? You do realize that while having a lower average temperature we still get temperatures just as high as Atlanta in Winnipeg.. sure winters can be a bit harsh but our summers are amazing. also climate history reports that Atlanta has well over DOUBLE the amount of average rainfall yearly. yuck.

Fan

May 9th, 2011
9:11 pm

I am not here to say what should happen. Glendale will vote to cover the $25M since they have an arena they still need to pay for. although how 10,000 fans paying $20 per seat covers the mortgage beats me. But I must wonder, if things were only temporarily troublesome in Atlanta the loses would be a total of say 30 – 40 Million, but a cummulative loss of $130 Million or so is a clear indication that the interest in NHL hockey at the price it takes to break even just doesn’t exist, ,for whatever reason. Seeing all those empty seats and knowing decent hockey players are wasting away in an uninterested market is embarrasing to the league and it’s history.

Alan R.

May 9th, 2011
9:29 pm

but a cummulative loss of $130 Million or so is a clear indication that the interest in NHL hockey at the price it takes to break even just doesn’t exist, ,for whatever reason.

Then you’ll be pleased to know the team made money when Ted Turner owned the Thrashers. Meanwhile, the team has never made money while Atlanta Spirit has owned them.

Something tells me it’s not the market that’s the problem, no matter what you choose to believe.

KLS1

May 9th, 2011
9:35 pm

If the Spirit gets an offer for $160M for what is really an $80M franchise, the Spirit jerks will sell and move before next season.

too many on the ICE

May 9th, 2011
9:46 pm

Just look at Nashville. Get that cheap flousy Kelly Clarkson and Mike Fisher here. You’ll see a crowd.

Cornbread

May 9th, 2011
9:50 pm

Add Viv’s article to those rumors that are “speculative and made-up”.

thrash head

May 9th, 2011
10:30 pm

Nice book Brendan. Do you really think anyobdy bothers to read a post that long?

Thrashers27

May 9th, 2011
10:45 pm

I am so tired of this BS. While I do have this sick feeling in my stomach any time the idea of the Thrashers moving comes up, I really don’t worry about it when I apply “REASON” to the scenario.

Going back to a point made many, many times, Atlanta is a very large media market filled with many northern transplants and Georgia natives who enjoy hockey. The league would certainly like to stay tapped into the market. There are many of us northern transplants who consider Thrashers hockey as a piece of “home” here in the south.

Secondly, the league would be foolish to call Atlanta hockey a “bust” after such a short period of time. Especially seeing how the team has been run by a bunch of idiots for the last several years. I have to believe that Commissioner Bettman understands this and in all truth should feel somewhat responsible, because the league approved the sale of the team to the octojackasses.

To me, the hockey fans of Thrasherville HAVE proven that HOCKEY WORKS IN ATLANTA. Ask the throngs of fans who came to games before the octomonkeys took over and proved a lack of commitment to the team if hockey works in Atlanta. It does! Anyone else remember how awesome the crowds and energy were during the seasons immediately before and after the lockout? That place was rockin’! Yeah, it’s pathetic that the team has only seen playoff action once, but I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit to shedding a tear of pride, or two prior to the puck drop of game one and I guarantee I wasn’t the only one.

Hockey works in Atlanta! Bettman and the NHL would be foolish to give up on it now. I’m sure Gary is aware that the Thrashers need legitimate owners who are 100% commited to the team.

I can’t wait for this crap to come to an end, so we don’t have to hear this BS day in and day out. Should Winnipeg get another chance? I don’t really care, but it will not come at the expense of the Atlanta market.

LONG LIVE THE THRASHERS!!!

whiney pegboy

May 9th, 2011
11:09 pm

I miss the NHL in my town, although it failed here once before. Waaaahh!!!

southernhockeyfan

May 9th, 2011
11:40 pm

How can anybody get excited about this team, such as drafts, trades and in other transactions when you as a fan are worried about whether or not they are going to be here long term. There is no way they can leave next season, but after that who knows. Who wants to cheer for a team when you know they might be heading out of town. This ownership really sucks!!! Maybe it would have been different if the team had made more than one playoff, but I guarantee you, under the right circumstances, hockey will work in this town. BTW-I am almost pulling for the Hawks to lose!!!

southernhockeyfan

May 9th, 2011
11:41 pm

Should have read any other transactions, sorry

eugene

May 10th, 2011
3:25 am

Pittsburgh, Washington, Tampa Bay, Chicago, what do they all have in common? They all purposely lost multiple years in order to get multiple top 5 draft picks. It’s what the Edmonton Oilers are doing right now. If you want hockey to work in Atlanta, the fans are just going to have to wait it out, until Atlanta starts getting top 5 draft picks year after year.

East Point Bob

May 10th, 2011
4:18 am

If the team does relocate, I sure as hell they take vivlimore, or whatever his name is with them. He has been used by asg for years and does and says just what they want him to. He is as soft on them as fresh doughnuts, and that does not cut it.

Pittsburgh Pirate Fan

May 10th, 2011
7:24 am

Chris, what the heck are you writing for the paper anyhow. All you do by writing this garbage is feed the trolls and useless losers like Douchie Doug. Write about hockey you clown, nothing of what happens in Arizona matters here and Bettman has already said as much.

And explain to me, what the heck is NHL hockey doing in Winnipeg, Manitoba anyhow? Bechta NBC and VS. would be real happy if ANY team moved there.

Do you know who is playing in the playoffs anyhow?

Acer9

May 10th, 2011
8:10 am

Some members of the BoG aren’t willing to provide the same effort to Atlanta, which they gave to Phoenix. I also think that the BoG could quickly vote to relocate the Thrashers now, despite what some bloggers want to make you believe.

It’s not about the city of Atlanta or the city of Winnipeg. It’s about TNSE and the Atlanta Spirit.

Chris, thanks for being around here. I enjoy fairly neutral reporting without the emotional attachments that others display and I’m not just talking about the fans.

Winnipeg Jet

May 10th, 2011
8:26 am

Can’t wait for Hockey night now!

Puck Like A Porn Star

May 10th, 2011
8:30 am

If the NHL doesn’t fight as hard for the Thrashers as it is for the Coyotes, and they just let hockey leave a top-ten media market, then Bettman is even more stupid than we all feared.

Winnipeg Jet

May 10th, 2011
8:44 am

This media market?

Atlanta Hates its Teams Too – The Hawks ranked 22nd in the NBA in attendance, drawing around 15,600 fans and are the only team in the playoffs to end up in the bottom 5 in average ratings at 1.17. The Thrashers were second to last in local TV ratings in the NHL (.23) and played before an average of 13,400 fans. Maybe a deep run in the playoffs, they already knocked off the Orlando Magic, will help the Hawks. The only thing that will help the Trashers is moving somewhere cold.

Thrashers27

May 10th, 2011
9:35 am

Jet:

You fail to recognize the fact that fans did support the team when the ownership displayed a commitment to the team. After the last five years, or so of in-fighting amongst the owners and icing a team on a shoestring budget, the fans have lost faith in the current ownership. Before ownership proved its inadequacy, the fans were there and the building was rockin’.

If the ownership could have maintained and built upon the fanbase from the years surrounding the lockout, then we would have something magical here in Atlanta. The problem is that the owners here suck.

Additionally, every Canadian and hockey fans around the world should be happy to see “their sport” penetrate the most unexpected markets. Hockey in the south should be seen as a testament to the beauty of the game. There’s nothing else like it.

Get your own team!

LONG LIVE THE THRASHERS!!!

Acer9

May 10th, 2011
9:54 am

WJ, the Atlanta Spirit own the Atlanta Hawks. That’s about it.

GaVaHokie

May 10th, 2011
10:23 am

The most “southern” player on Tampa’s roster is from Pittsburg. And they have to go thru Beantown.

And the best player on Vancouver right now is an American… so what.

Food for thought

May 10th, 2011
10:27 am

Chris

Well done…
Now have you thought about these questions to owners?

1. Are they broke?

2. Are they wealthy enough to keep team afloat for another year or 2 and actually try to be at least as competitive as Nashville, Carolina etc.

3. After no playoff wins in 11 years,
(1 appearance) how can one say whether hockey could work here? so that being said why does don still have a job? Why would gb fall for this transaction and fight so hard for avteam in the desert?

Something stinks here and it’s time to drill even deeper

4.

Winnepeg Hockey Fan

May 10th, 2011
11:01 am

We don’t deserve a team anymore than any other hockey fans. I hope that the Thrashers stay in Atlanta!

J-man

May 10th, 2011
11:21 am

WJ – As pointed out the Atlanta Spirit have managed to kill two teams here with the fans. How these guys can believe that they can continue to own the Hawks and everything will be great is beyond me.

Thomas Magnum

May 10th, 2011
11:23 am

If the Atlanta Spirit end up selling the team to someone who moves them I will never EVER buy another ticket that will benefit them.