WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg NHL watch continues with reports that the Atlanta Thrashers’ sale could be complete this week, possibly as early as Tuesday.
The Thrashers’ owners are in negotiations with True North Sports and Entertainment, which wants to move the team to Winnipeg.
While reports suggested the news might come sooner rather than later, those in the know chose their words carefully Monday afternoon.
True North spokesman Scott Brown told The Canadian Press via email that “no press conference has been scheduled as of yet.”
And NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in an email that “there is nothing done as of now.”
The Stanley Cup final between Boston and Vancouver begins Wednesday. The NHL would likely prefer the Thrashers’ sale is announced on a day there is no hockey.
Still, Daly told The Associated Press on Monday there is no strict rule against releasing big news during the final.
Daly said he couldn’t say if the sale could be announced as soon as Tuesday, but “It’s certainly possible something will be finalized this week.”
Monday was Memorial Day in the U.S.
The two sides have been working through complex legal details on the sale and relocation of the team. Thrashers fans’ hopes for a late local buyer have not been realized.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said on his weekly radio show on Thursday the inability to find an owner which wants to keep the team in Atlanta is a barrier the league can’t overcome.
“It would be one of those head scratchers where you say, ‘Look at all of this great corporate opportunity, look at all of this grass roots hockey, why doesn’t somebody want to own a team here?'” Bettman said. “And that would be a difficult, but unfortunate situation to be dealing with if it has reached, or does reach that point.”
Bettman was asked if Atlanta would have hopes of having another NHL team if it loses its second franchise. The Flames moved from Atlanta to Calgary in 1980.
“The only time we move is when we don’t have a choice, and that typically happens when nobody wants to own a club there anymore,” Bettman said. “The prospect of leaving Atlanta isn’t something that I’m particularly fond of. So I can’t even contemplate the notion of what would happen after that in terms of coming back. We respect the importance of Atlanta as a city. It’s a big market, but this is a franchise that’s got a problem in that market.”
Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed spoke last week as if losing the Thrashers is a certainty.
“It is going to hurt the city but we will withstand it just fine and we will get through it,” Reed said.
Team president Don Waddell said last week there remained some hope for a late development until a sale is made official and approved by the NHL board of governors.
“Ownership still is committed to selling at a greatly reduced price to anyone committed to Atlanta” Waddell said.
Reed and the team’s lead owners, Michael Gearon Jr. and Bruce Levenson, have said no local buyer has emerged.
With files from The Associated Press