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NHL officially back in Winnipeg after unanimous vote

The perfunctory rubber stamp has been given by the NHL's Board of Governors: The Atlanta Thrashers are dead; long live the Winnipeg and/or Manitoba … we'll get back to you on the name.

From Brian Compton of NHL.com:

The League's Board of Governors gave its stamp of approval for the sale and relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to the group from Winnipeg at its meeting in midtown Manhattan on Tuesday.

It's the first franchise relocation in the NHL since 1997, when the Hartford Whalers became the Carolina Hurricanes.  True North Sports and Entertainment purchased the club from the Atlanta Spirit group for a reported $170 million and paid the NHL a $60 million relocation fee to move the team to Winnipeg, which hasn't been an NHL city since the Jets left for Phoenix after the 1995-96 season.

From the NHL, a statement from Gary Bettman:

"We deeply regret that Atlanta's ownership was unable to secure local partners after exhausting every option and alternative," Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "At the same time, we are delighted that NHL hockey is returning to Winnipeg and to a fan-base that already is showing so much support for its team. We congratulate Mark Chipman, David Thomson and True North on their patience, their preparation and their professionalism, and we look forward to the start of a new era for the franchise."

As expected, the NHL has shifted the contents of its Thrashers page over to a "Winnipeg" NHL site.

Via the Winnipeg Free Press, here's Chipman:

"We are very honoured by the NHL Board of Governors' unanimous decision today," said Mark Chipman, chairman of the board of True North Sports & Entertainment. "We know that the fans of this province have an appetite for NHL hockey that is rivalled by few in the league and intend to work very hard to make Manitobans proud of our franchise for years to come."

Congratulations to Winnipeg, whose wait is officially over.

Condolences to Atlanta fans like Hildy Mac, who posted the following tribute to the Thrashers over on Bird Watchers Anonymous:

I'd like to say thank you to the Thrashers organization for giving Atlanta eleven years of the greatest sport on earth. Thank you for getting teenagers interested in it in 1999, and thank you for letting them get their own children into hockey today. Thank you for the chance to grow the game here in the South - where many feel that it doesn't belong. It does, very much so, because hockey belongs where people who love the game are. It's just apparent that the Atlanta Spirit Group, LLC doesn't love the game, doesn't understand the nuances or the rules of the sport - and doesn't understand the community impact.

Meanwhile, we're just beginning to understand the community impact the return of the NHL will have in Winnipeg. The first day those new sweaters go on sale … well, it's hard to say any retail feat is impressive after they already sold out their building in, like, four minutes.

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