According to the Vancouver Province, it is:
There are more than a few rumors buzzing about the league suggesting the NHL is about to make a pitch to take over the Atlanta Thrashers with the end game being to move them to Winnipeg. Repeat, these are just rumors at this stage.
According to sources which purport to be close to the story, the league would raise roughly $160 million U.S. for the project and put $35 million of that money into a kitty to run the team on a temporary basis. They would then offer the remaining $125 million to the legal battling owners of the Thrashers in hopes that that would be tempted to take the money, in part to end their losses and perhaps make the resolution of whatever disputes remain between them easier.
Given there is virtually nobody at the Atlanta games these days despite the fact the team has had a surprisingly good season to date, the league would then arrange ownership in Winnipeg—likely with the ultra wealthy Thompson family—and then move the club as quickly and as expediently as posible.
After the Ilya Kovalchuk trade a little over a year ago, I noted that every great player Atlanta has ever known has eventually left for one reason or another. Apparently I was thinking too micro. If the Thrashers do pack up the ole Mayflower truck and head off to the great white north, I can’t blame them. Nor do I think I’ll feel sadness. I doubt I’ll be alone. While I consider myself a hockey fan, (At least by southern standards. I watched every minute of the last Olympic tournament; I watch the Rangers games regularly, plus whatever other games I can find on television) I do not consider myself a Thrashers “fan” in the truest sense. Sure I want them to do well, but the team never has quite captured my heart, nor has it captured the heart of the rest of the potential fan base. Maybe it’s because, I don’t know … Atlanta is not a hockey town?
A Thrashers relocation would make Atlanta 0-for-2 with pro hockey. (If you count the minor league Knights, who won an IHL championship in 1994 only to move to Quebec two years later, 0-for-3. Renamed the Quebec Rafales, the franchise folded in 1998.) Nobody mourns for the old Flames, and aside from the occasional throwback worn in a rap video, you hardly see any mention that they ever even played in the south.
If not this year, it will be the next year, or the year after that, but eventually the Thrashers are going to move to Winnipeg, or Hamilton, or the dozen other hockey-crazed Canadian cities which are lying in wait. While I won’t feel happy about it, I won’t feel sadness either. The Thrashers franchise is like a dog with terrible owners who is up for adoption – you just want them to find a good home, somewhere where they’ll be loved and treated well. Hockey wasn’t meant to be played in front of 12,000 disinterested fans from the southern United States.
Give another franchise back to Canada, it’s the least commissioner Gary Bettman could do.
On the ice, the Thrashers’ playoff hopes continue to sink. The team lost its fourth straight contest Monday, dropping them to 9th in the Eastern Conference standings. In an effort to turn things around, general manager Rick Dudley is actively exploring trade options.