Atlanta to Winnipeg: The Unfolding Story

Despite passing the midway point of the Conference Finals this weekend, the hot topic seems to have been the future of the Atlanta Thrashers and whether or not it will be in Canada. Winnipeg, specifically.

My inbox is filling up with questions about the situation. I'm not an expert on this particular subject so I'd like to defer to those who are. Like many of you, I've been reading a lot about what may or may not be going down.

To make this easy, I've assembled a list of articles from well-repected sources to paint a picture of all that's going on with regard to this subject. But first I should say something.

Thrashers fans protest relocation / TSN.caAs I've reviewed my post from Friday about the Thrashers' imminent move, my bias is clearer to me. As a fellow hockey fan from a southern state, I feel for Thrashers faithful who are on the brink of losing the team they love.

I'm bothered by the apparent heartlessness of Winnipeg residents who should know what it's like to have a franchise ripped right out from them. But it's not heartlessness, is it?

If we step back and look at the numbers, it's hard to argue with them. How can we expect them to feel bad for Atlanta when all they've wanted for 15 years is to have their team back?

Add to that, the hundreds, even thousands of diehard Thrashers fans are dwarfed by an entire city of more than a half-million that would live and die by the team. That's awfully hard to deny.

If it's a question of who deserves it more — and it shouldn't be — who wins out? Atlanta has the team now. They've supported it (mostly) for 12 years. But from everything I've read, it sounds like the ownership, Atlanta Spirit, has let them down. So it's hard to blame the fans in Georgia. And it's just as hard to tell the folks in Manitoba to subdue their excitement.

I still have no patience for any Canadian who innately thinks their geography makes them more deserving of hockey. (Remember, you keep coming back to read a hockey blog written by a Floridian.) But I recognize the predicament both cities are in. Now, having said all that — which I'm sure most of you didn't bother to read — here are the bullet points from the weekend.

  • Deal! On Thursday night, Stephen Brunt of the Globe and Mail (Toronto) reported the deal was done and the Thrashers are moving to Winnipeg for the 2011-12 season. He said an announcement would be made Tuesday (tomorrow). details
  • No Deal Everyone else, including TSN, reported that, in fact, no deal had been done — yet. But that it's just a matter of time. details
  • Moving Day On Friday, TSN reported that some players had been told to start working on new real estate plans for the fall. details
  • Contingency Plan On Saturday, the St. John's Telegram said the AHL's Manitoba Moose will be announcing their relocation to Newfoundland on Friday. This assumes a deal to move the Thrashers is completed by then. details
  • Inching Closer As of this morning, things are still looking grim for Atlanta as, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, True North Sports and Entertainment continues to close in on a deal. It has become highly unlikely anyone will come along to keep the team in Georgia. details

Part of TSN's online coverage of the NHL's possible return to Winnipeg has included what they call the Jets Meter — a subjective scale based on the likelihood of it happening. As of today, they're five rungs from dropping the puck. So they're pretty positive about this.

For the longest time, it looked like the Phoenix Coyotes were the most likely victim, set to return to their Winnipeg Jets glory — until the city of Glendale took action to squash that dream. Now it's become the Thrashers. Only they wouldn't be called the Jets since that's part of the Coyotes' heritage. So for the rest of this post, we'll assume the deal goes through this week. What happens then?

  • Last month, reported that the only way the Jets name would come back is if the Coyotes did too. Because it looks to be the Thrashers, that's probably out. Instead, TNSE, the likely new owners, would bank on their existing hockey brand — the Manitoba Moose. details
  • Last Tuesday, TSN pointed out that whatever the name, it would likely be preceded by Manitoba rather than Winnipeg this time. They then asked what the team should be named. It yielded a variety of responses from readers including Monarchs, Boomerangs, Rebels, Lakers, and yes, even Thrashers. But Jets remains the most popular. details
  • On Thursday, TSN writer Dave Naylor discussed the love for that Jets name in Winnipeg. In particular, he wondered why the Thrashers couldn't take on that moniker even though it is part of the Coyotes' history. After all, it wouldn't be a first in pro sports. Just ask the Cleveland Browns. details

Whatever happens, I'll keep an eye on it — especially as far as the name and logo are concerned. And keep an eye on the Icethetics Twitter feed in the sidebar as I frequently post or retweet useful links there.