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NHL return expected to be announced at 11 AM news conference

by Hockey Manitoba  |  May 31, 2011 8:08 am

Winnipeg Free Press – ONLINE EDITION

True North expected to announce purchase of Thrashers at news conference

By: Gary Lawless and Tim Campbell

True North Sports and Entertainment has called an 11 a.m. press conference to announce it has purchased the Atlanta Thrashers subject to NHL board of governors' approval.

The Free Press learned early this morning that a deal had not been finalized but that there was enough confidence among the parties involved, True North, the NHL and Atlanta Spirit Group, to call a press conference.

Lawyers worked all night and will continue to in order to complete the transaction prior to an announcement.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and True North partner David Thomson are en route to Winnipeg for the announcement.

The league and its owners will have two matters on which to vote, now likely on June 21 in New York. They will be asked to allow True North to relocate the franchise to Winnipeg's MTS Centre and to confirm True North as the franchise's new owners.

When True North makes its news public today, it's expected to announce an immediate ticket-selling campaign that will be designed to give the NHL a confident picture of the Winnipeg market, which has been without NHL hockey since 1996.

The City of Winnipeg has no plans to close down Portage & Main, due to concerns about emergency access to hospitals.

Fans are encouraged to attend the celebration at The Forks, where announcements will follow the NHL announcement at 11 a.m., city events manager Kenny Boyce said.

The Winnipeg Jets, who played at the since-demolished Winnipeg Arena, joined the NHL in 1979 after seven successful years in the WHA.

Their history in the NHL was hit-and-miss and after some serious money-losing years and the desire of city and provincial governments to get out from under the losses they had agreed to cover after 1991, the team was sold in 1995 to American businessmen Richard Burke and Steven Gluckstern and moved to Phoenix in 1996.

True North has been negotiating with the Atlanta Spirit Group on the Thrashers franchise purchase since early May.

The Free Press is following this story and will supply more details as they become available.

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Nov 2, 2005