Below is the story from yesterday’s AJC on the Thrashers ownership situation. There is nothing different than the story that appeared online and in print, I just wanted you give you a place to comment.
So have at it. Our team will continue reporting this story and will update any developments.
A day after the future of the NHL franchise in Phoenix was decided, the fate of the one in Atlanta remained uncertain, with a spokesman for Mayor Kasim Reed acknowledging the Thrashers “may leave” the city.
Thrashers and NHL officials were not saying much Wednesday, following the vote late Tuesday night by the Glendale, Ariz., city council to pay the league $25 million to keep the Phoenix Coyotes in Arizona for another season. The Coyotes had been targeted by a Winnipeg group interested in purchasing the franchise and moving it to Manitoba. With the Coyotes staying put, the Winnipeg group likely will turn its sole focus to the Thrashers.
Reese McCranie, spokesman for Reed, said Atlanta has not been approached by the NHL about making a financial deal such as Glendale’s. Even if approached, the city — in the midst of pension reform and possible layoffs in 2012 — would not consider it, McCranie said.
“We are aware that the ownership of the Thrashers is having difficulty and they may leave,” McCranie said. “The mayor has had robust discussions with business leaders in the metro region [who might] potentially buy or join a team of buyers to keep the Thrashers here.
“He has gone through extraordinary lengths to ensure that the Thrashers can stay in Atlanta, but at this moment there is not a deal on the table that we can present.”
William Pate, president of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, said losing the Thrashers would be a blow to the city’s brand.
“Atlanta is obviously an international city and a major sports town, both professional and collegiate, one of the handful of cities that has a professional team in every major sport,” Pate said Wednesday. “Just from the brand of the city, if you will, it would be disappointing to see our hockey franchise leave the city.”
Pate said “a lot of conventioneers and tourists, particularly from the North” like to go to Thrashers games at Philips Arena.
The Thrashers’ ownership group, Atlanta Spirit, has been looking for buyers for the financially struggling franchise and has expressed a “sense of urgency” to reach a solution. Relocation is one possibility, ownership has said.
“We are continuing to seek solutions for the Thrashers,” part-owner Bruce Levenson said Wednesday. “I will not comment on any speculation.”
Another part-owner, Michael Gearon Jr., said his desire remains to find a solution that will keep the team in Atlanta. Gearon said he “can’t comment with respect to other cities,” saying “that’s a question for the league office.”
Requests for comment from the NHL about the future of the Thrashers in Atlanta were not answered.
The Glendale council voted 5-2 late Tuesday to approve the deal to keep the Coyotes in Arizona. The city paid the NHL $25 million last week for operating expenses for the league-owned team for last season and agreed this week to do the same for next season.
With the Coyotes seemingly safe in Arizona for another season, the NHL can continue work on a deal with prospective buyer Matthew Hulsizer. The league also could search for another buyer for the Coyotes, as the deal with Hulsizer has been complicated and met with some resistance from a local watchdog group.
Staff writers Ernie Suggs, Tim Tucker and Chris Vivlamore contributed to this article.