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Change in status of talks with Hawks unlikely to affect Thrashers' path to Winnipeg

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

ATLANTA - It looks like hockey fans in Winnipeg will have to wait for an official announcement on the possible relocation of the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers to Manitoba's capital.

There were reports from Toronto last week that the Thrashers' deal with True North Sports and Entertainment could be announced in Winnipeg on Tuesday. That no longer appears likely.

In an email sent Monday to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said "it's safe to say there will be no announcement on Tuesday."

Atlanta, which lost its first NHL team in 1980 when the Flames moved to Calgary, could become the first city since the league's 1967 expansion to lose two franchises.

Meanwhile, Atlanta Spirit, the group that owns the Thrashers, the NBA's Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena, had ended their exclusive talks with a prospective buyer, for the Hawks, but there is no indication that change will affect efforts for to sell the Thrashers.

Michael Gearon Jr. said Monday the owners no longer are granting rights only to John Moores to buy the Hawks. Moores owns about 50 per cent of the San Diego Padres.

The development has the potential to impact the ownership group's ongoing talks to sell the Thrashers to True North.

The group, which includes Gearon and Bruce Levenson as lead owners, can again entertain offers for one buyer interested in a package including the Thrashers, Hawks and operating rights to Philips Arena.

Moores told The Associated Press on Monday night he remains interested in the Hawks.

"The interest continues. I don't think I can say anything beyond that," Moores said.

The owners have reported no serious interest from a buyer interested in purchasing the package, just as there has been no potential buyer who has made a convincing offer to buy the Thrashers and keep the team in Atlanta.

Barring an unexpected development, that leaves the Thrashers and True North as the most likely partners in a deal.

Gearon left Atlanta on Monday for a business trip, leaving Levenson as the owners' point man in the talks.

"I simply can't comment on any discussions we might be having with anybody," said Bruce Levenson.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Monday that a final prospective buyer intending to keep the team in Atlanta is "probably, but not completely" out of the picture.

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