Tue May 31 11:51am EDT
The story has been "broken" at least once a day since the end of the regular season, but Tuesday is finally the day that the NHL and True North Sports and Entertainment announced that the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers is complete and that the team will be moving to Winnipeg for next season.
The deal will still need to be rubber stamped by at the Board of Governors when they meet June 21 and a three-fourth majority is needed to approve the change of ownership, while a 50 percent vote must be had to approve the relocation.
Join us as we live blog the formal press conference beginning at 12 p.m. ET.
12:00 p.m. - Apparently things won't be starting until 12:15 p.m ET. Word is commissioner Gary Bettman is running late. In the meantime, if you didn't know already, the Winnipeg team will play in the Eastern Conference next season. There won't be realignment just yet.
12:05 p.m. - How busy is it inside MTS Centre right now for the announcement? Here's a picture from our friends at Illegal Curve:
12:15 p.m - The press conference is about to get under way with members of True North Sport and Entertainment along with Bettman and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly in attendance.
12:21 p.m. - Mark Chipman, the chairman of True North, details the journey the group has made since 1999 and ends his comments with the official announcement that they've purchased the Atlanta Thrashers. "In a sense, I guess you can say that True North, our city and our province, has received the call we've long since been waiting for."
12:23 p.m. - Bettman will be speaking as soon as Chipman is done.
12:24 p.m. - Here's the official press release from the Atlanta Thrashers on the sale:
The Atlanta Thrashers announced today that they have entered into an asset purchase agreement with True North Sports and Entertainment with the intent of selling and relocating the NHL franchise to Winnipeg, Manitoba to begin play in the 2011-12 National Hockey League season. The agreement is subject to approval by the NHL Board of Governors.
"Our objective was always to find a solution to keep the team in Atlanta, and we spent a considerable amount of time, effort and resources trying to do so," said Co-Owner Bruce Levenson. "This is not the outcome we wanted and it's extremely disappointing that a buyer or significant investor did not come forward that would enable us to keep the team in Atlanta."
The Atlanta Thrashers began operation in 1999 and in 11 seasons (902 games), the team finished with a 342-437-123 record. Atlanta won the Southeast Division Championship and reached the postseason during the 2006-07 campaign and the following year hosted the NHL All-Star game.
More after the jump.
12:26 p.m. - Chipman introduces Bettman, who receives applause as he comes to the podium, unlike the last time he was in Winnipeg.
12:27 p.m. - Bettman says that the deal was finalized Tuesday morning with key players, including himself, on a conference call as early as 4:30 a.m. Tuesday.
12:28 p.m. - Bettman: "As we've said repeatedly, we don't like to move franchises. But sometimes, even if it's been 14 years since the last time we've moved a franchise, sometimes we simply have no choice as was the case back in '96 when the Jets left Winnipeg."
12:31 p.m. - Bettman to Thrasher fans: "Please be assured it was never about whether Winnipeg is better than Atlanta. The decision to come to Winnipeg was made only after Atlanta's ownership made the decision that they were going to sell, even if it meant the club was going to leave Atlanta."
12:32 p.m. - Bettman on returning to Winnipeg: "We get to be back in a place we wish we hadn't left in 1996."
On ticket sales in Winnipeg: "This isn't going to work very well unless this building is sold out every night."
12:33 p.m. - Greg Selinger, the Premier of Manitoba, welcomes the NHL back to Winnipeg.
12:34 p.m. - Selinger goes on to refer to Mike Keane as "Mark" three times during his remarks.
12:36 p.m. - Jim Ludlow, president of True North, announces the "Drive to 13,000," their ticket sales campaign to sell 13,000 season tickets prior to the Board of Governors meeting on June 21.
12:38 p.m. - A pre-sale is Wednesday through Friday for Manitoba Moose season-ticket holders, while general tickets will be available for purchase beginning Saturday, June 4.
12:39 p.m. - And the "Drive to 13,000" website is up and running.
12:41 p.m. - Here's the seating chart for MTS Centre and the ticket pricing tiers:
12:47 p.m. - According to Ludlow, the ticket commitments are as follows: P1 and P2 is five years. P3, P4 and P5 is four years, while P6 and P7 is three years. From the Drive to 13 FAQ:
"Those that commit to a ticket package for either 3‐, 4‐ or 5‐years will be guaranteed that their ticket price per game will not increase by more than 3% annually."
"Committing to a ticket package will provide you a Ticket Purchase Agreement (TPA) which will guarantee your seat location for the term of your TPA. In addition, you will be provided with cost certainty for the length of your TPA term (ticket price per game will not increase by more than 3% annually)."
12:48 p.m. - Chipman says that a name has not be chosen yet for the team.
12:51 p.m. - Bettman, when asked about bringing hockey back to Winnipeg: "To be able to come back that we know loves NHL hockey, to be able to do it in a city that's changed, with a collective bargaining agreement that's leveled the playing surface, with this building, with ownership, these were factors that didn't exist in '96."
12:55 p.m. - Bettman on whether this move would raise hope in cities like Quebec that could be looking for an NHL team in the future: "We will continue to resist moving franchises. ... Other communities shouldn't be reading anything into what's happening here into any other situation."
1:01 p.m. - Chipman says he hasn't spoken with Rick Dudley yet in regards to the future of the team's hockey operations department with less than a month until the NHL draft.
1:03 p.m. - The press conference ends and now we wait for the Board of Governors to officially sign off on the deal; for the team to figure out what it wants to be called and to see what the jersey it hands its draft pick next month looks like.