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Atlanta Thrashers relocation to Winnipeg? American professional sports team relocations since 2000
Southern hockey markets are often mentioned amongst the leading candidates for relocation. The Atlanta Thrashers could be the latest victim as True North Sports and Entertainment want to purchase and resettle the franchise in Winnipeg, Canada. Winnipeg lost their NHL franchise (Winnipeg Jets) after they became the Phoenix Coyotes in 1996.
Here are five of the most significant relocations in professional sports amongst the four major American sporting leagues (NBA, NHL, MLB, and NFL). Most of the 21st century relocations have occurred with NBA franchises, specifically in the Northwest.
The Vancouver Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors were an attempt of globalization by Commissioner David Stern. These 1995 expansion franchises gave the NBA an international presence in the eastern and western portions of Canada.
The Grizzles never had an opportunity to succeed, nor did they show any signs of potentially succeeding. The Grizzlies misfortunes started when they drafted Bryant Reeves with the sixth-overall selection in the 1995 lottery draft. They were humiliated after Steve Francis threw a fit over having to relocate to Canada during the 1999 lottery draft.
The Grizzlies would move to Memphis for the 2001 season after failing to post a .300 mark in six seasons. Draft busts, multiple head-coaching changes, and no stability led to the damnation of NBA in Vancouver.
Despite competing in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Charlotte Hornets lost nearly $35 million over a two-season span due to plummeting attendance. New Orleans had been trying to attract a NBA franchise since the Jazz abandoned them since 1979.
This was the second time in as many seasons that a relocation occurred. The NBA had gone 16 seasons before Vancouver escaped into Memphis. Charlotte would start a new franchise (Bobcats) a few seasons later.
This has been the MLB's only relocation since Washington D.C. lost their team in 1972. The Washington Senators became the Texas Rangers after owner Robert E. Short claimed he couldn't make money.
The Expos made the playoffs once in 35 seasons (1981). The Expos were World Series favorites before the strike concluded their 74-40 1994 season. The Expos transformed from a potential World Series champion into a club that lost $15 million. President Claude Brochu started to dismantle the roster in an effort to save money.
Outside of the NHL, Toronto has been the only market that has survived in a major American sporting league. The Nationals have basically continued the Expos tradition of ineptness as they're always trying to avoid the divisional cellar.
2005: New Orleans Hornets = Oklahoma City Hornets (Temporary)
The New Orleans Hornets were forced to evacuate their regular playing facility during the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons following the destruction from Hurricane Katrina. The Hornets wouldn't remain in Oklahoma City, but it was a fine showing for Oklahomans and how they'd respond to a NBA franchise.
Which leads us to —
Along with the Portland Trailblazers, the Seattle Supersonics were one of two NBA organizations to remain in the far Northwest after the Grizzlies relocated. Vancouver basketball fans could still make a 2-3 hour trip into Seattle if they wanted to attend a live NBA game. It's proximity to Canada is one reason that Seattle is sometimes considered one of the world's most international cities.
The Sonics announced their intentions to abandon Seattle for Oklahoma City. Sonics chairman Clay Bennett expressed regret for Seattle but found Oklahoma City as a more attractive option since Seattle wouldn't commit to building a new facility.
The Oklahoma City Thunder drafted Kevin Durant and progressed into one of the Western Conference's elite teams in just two seasons.
Joshua Huffman graduated from Middle Tennessee State University as a marketing major in 2009. He's been a Middle Tennessee resident from 1986-1988 and 2001-present. His favorite sports organizations include the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Cubs, and Nashville Predators. He also follows the Tennessee Titans, his favorite AFC team.
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