Atlanta Thrashers owner Michael Gearon says unless new investors come forward willing to put money into the team to keep it in Atlanta, the franchise could be sold and moved.
"If we are faced with that as the only alternative, that’s what’s going to happen," Gearon told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I don’t think there is an ability to stomach another $20 million in losses. We just can’t do it. The reality is we need fans showing up and we need investors, or a primary investor."
Gearon appeared on Atlanta radio Wednesday afternoon and when asked if fans should be worried about moving vans pulling up to the rink at season’s end, he tap danced his way around the question.
"I have no intention of moving the team out of town and that’s why it’s important that we’re in a position to talk publicly about this and to appeal to our fans and the people of Atlanta," said Gearon. "I’m not hitting a panic button and I apologize if it comes across that way... I just want to appeal to our fan base and people in the community to get on board with us."
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly offered no comment on Wednesday but in January he talked to Winnipeg radio program The Illegal Curve about the Thrashers future in Atlanta.
"We’re going to have to look at the long term prospects of that franchise, and if the determination is made that it can’t make it there, and can’t be successful there, then something will have to be done," Daly said.
The Thrashers have reportedly lost more than $130 million since 2005 with the franchise value dropping in excess of $50 million.
The Thrashers sit second last in the 30-team NHL in attendance.