Hockey fans celebrate as NHL set to return to Winnipeg
Published Thursday, June 2, 2011 9:33AM CST
Hockey fans basked in boisterous celebrations Tuesday over the deal to bring the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg.
An announcement about the deal was made at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday.
"Today, on behalf of my family, our partner David Thomson and our entire organization, I am excited beyond words to announce our purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers," said Mark Chipman from True North.
Chipman and his business partner David Thomson have been working quietly on the process of getting an NHL team back to Winnipeg for years. "We thought if we can get 15,000 paid attendees regularly, it'll work," said Chipman.
The city has been without an NHL franchise since the Jets were relocated from Manitoba to Arizona in 1996.
Police said Portage and Main was closed to traffic at approximately 11 a.m. Tuesday. People took to the intersection for a game of road hockey, while others gathered and cheered.
"I always dreamed this day would come. Fifteen years ago, when our team was taken away, I was so sad, but now this day has come and I can't believe it right now," said fan Mike Yttamchandani.
Officials, meanwhile, asked people to head to The Forks to celebrate. Hundreds cheered and waved Jets' memorabilia in the air there.
Sources tell CTV News that lawyers worked through the night to finish the deal, wrapping up around 5:30 a.m. CST Tuesday.
The deal to bring the NHL back to Winnipeg is expected to cost around $170 million, with the league getting $60 million for a relocation fee.
The relocation of the Thrashers to Winnipeg is still subject to approval from the NHL's board of governors, which is expected to meet on June 21. The deal needs just 75 per cent approval.
The word from officials
Gary Bettman, the NHL's commissioner, was in Winnipeg Tuesday for the announcement.
"This venue, the MTS Centre, will be a fine, fine home for an NHL club," said Bettman.
There was speculation Winnipeg was the only option for a city that the Thrashers could be relocated to, but Bettman dissuaded that Tuesday, saying there were half-a-dozen options.
"To be candid, this isn't going to work very well unless this building is sold out every night," said Bettman.
A name for the team has not been announced, but is expected to be released in upcoming weeks.
"NHL, welcome home," said Premier Greg Selinger at the media conference.
Selinger credited True North for bringing an NHL team back to Winnipeg.
"We're so proud of this achievement and excited to have them back here in Manitoba. It's a fantastic day for all of us," said Selinger.
The premier and other officials encouraged Manitobans to buy season tickets to support the team.
A pre-sale for tickets will take place from June 1 to June 3 for Manitoba Moose season ticket holders.
Tickets are slated to go on sale to the general public June 4 at 12 p.m., said officials.
Single-game tickets will range from $39 to $129, said officials.
Officials hope to sell 13,000 season tickets, meanwhile, by June 21.
More ticket information is available online at:
Selinger said the province will move 90 slot machines to the MTS Centre. Revenue raised through the slot machines will go towards repaying True North's mortage on the arena.
"There could be up to $4 million a year in revenues, depending on how well they're used," said Selinger.
Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz, meanwhile, fulfilled a promise he made earlier, leading a conga line in celebration of the NHL returning to the city.
Katz said the return of the NHL will bring business to downtown Winnipeg. While he wouldn't offer specifics, Katz said talk of the NHL coming to Winnipeg has sparked interest in development.
"There will be some more announcements coming in the very near future about our downtown," said Katz.
Jets' alumni were on the stage at The Forks and the former players received a roar of support from hundreds of NHL fans following the NHL announcement.
Players from the Thrashers were also asked about the team being moved.
Forward Tim Stapleton received his first NHL opportunity in Atlanta and scored the Thrashers' final goal.
He acknowledged the move would be tough for NHL fans in Atlanta.
"Maybe we didn't play in front of a huge crowd, but the diehard fans were always there, win or lose," said Stapleton.
While a sad day for NHL fans, in Atlanta, Stapleton said he was looking forward to playing in Winnipeg.
"(It's) really exciting and looking forward to playing in front of a sold-out crow and a city that loves hockey," said Stapleton.
- with reports from CTV's Caroline Barghout, Shawn Churchill, Kevin Olszewski, Leah Hextall, Laura Lowe and Stacey Ashley