Atlanta Spirit, the group that holds control of the Atlanta Thrashers, has wanted to sell for years now, and as they continue to lose money hand over fist, it was only a matter of time before they started talking with groups outside of the local area. You know, groups that would keep the team in Atlanta.
According to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta Spirit has opened up negotiations with True North Sports and Entertainment, the group that would love nothing better than to buy the team and relocate them to Winnipeg. Details:
A deal has not been completed and it is also not known how long the two sides have been negotiating. However, the fact that talks are on-going negotiations could mean the Thrashers would relocate to Manitoba perhaps as soon as next season.
This is obviously horrible news if you're a fan of the Thrashers. True North has a lot of money and they're willing to spend it to make this deal happen, and when the current ownership group has said multiple times that there's a "sense of urgency" to sell, it doesn't seem like there's much that will get in their way.
Of course, the NHL does have to approve relocation, but thus far, there's really been no indication that the league would hold up a move from Atlanta to Winnipeg in the same way they've tried to hold up any potential move from Phoenix to Winnipeg.
It does seem a little late in the game for relocation to happen for the 2011-12 season. As the AJC story points out, the schedule for next season will be released within the next month, and given the NHL's weighted schedule format, in which teams play those in their own conference more than teams from the other conference, it might be too late for a team to switch sides.
Beyond that, there's a January 1 deadline for relocation proposals to be sent in writing to the NHL offices, although there are ways to get around that deadline if most other teams in the league vote to allow it.
The full story? Well, there's a very real possibility that NHL hockey could be played in Winnipeg in just a few months.