There's a bit of intrigue this Thursday on the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers to True North Sports, the group that's relocating the team to Winnipeg.
As you are likely aware, True North has started a ticket campaign, trying to get 13,000 season tickets sold for the new team in advance of the NHL's June 21 Board of Governors meeting. At that meeting, they will vote to allow the relocation, and part of the terms of accepting that relocation are that Winnipeg can support an NHL franchise.
Selling 13,000 season tickets in three weeks is a good way at proving that, and it's expected that they will meet that mark. They're using a website called driveto13.com to facilitate the sales.
Here's where the intrigue comes in. As it turns out, a quick search on that domain name shows that it was registered way back on February 28, long before the Thrashers were rumored to be heading to Winnipeg. That's obviously an indication that True North expected some kind of season ticket campaign this summer, and they had gone into enough detail as of February to name that campaign and register a website. It's telling.
A lot of folks seem quick to jump on the idea that Michael Gearon and the Atlanta Spirit Group were up to something, and given that they left a lot of folks in the dark throughout this entire sale process (employees, players, fans, etc.), that's not really out of the question.
Considering the ownership situation in Atlanta was called "urgent" by ESPN's Pierre LeBrun on February 19, just a few days before True North registered the website, it's possible they were talking with the ASG long before last month.
At the same time, True North was also interested in the Phoenix Coyotes, a team that was also sitting in a perilous position in February as attacks from the right-wing Goldwater Institute threatened (and continue to threaten) the sale of that team to Michael Hulsizer, a businessman intent on keeping the team in Arizona.
This development raises questions and not many answers, but really, at the end of the day, it doesn't really make too much of a difference. The Thrashers are headed to Winnipeg.