Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Thrashers sale report 'not accurate'

But deal could happen at any moment

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True North Sports and Entertainment says a Globe and Mail report stating the group has reached an agreement to buy the Atlanta Thrashers is not accurate.

But sources tell the Free Press a deal could be reached at any moment that will be conditional on league approval.

A high ranking True North official involved in negotiations to buy the Thrashers said the Globe story was, "100 per cent untrue."

Despite the denials, a crowd of deliriously cheering fans were whooping up a storm Thursday night at Portage and Main. Hundreds were waving banners and blaring horns to passing traffic, chanting "Go Jets Go."

The NHL’s board of governors will not approve a deal to move the franchise to Winnipeg until a test market ticket drive is completed and they are satisfied the market is viable according to a source involved in the negotiations.

Expect any upcoming press conference to be the kickoff of such a drive.

It’s expected True North will ask for three year commitments for season ticket packages. How many tickets the league will need to see sold in order to bless this move is unknown but it will certainly be north of 10,000.

True North spokesman Scott Brown was also reached and said, "a deal is not done at this time."

Sources close to the deal say progress has been made and a deal could be reached in the coming days but nothing has been signed.

Several high ranking sources with the Thrashers said nothing has been completed although a deal is expected to be finalized.

The Globe story says:

"Sources confirmed (Thursday) that preparations are being made for an announcement Tuesday, confirming the sale and transfer of the Thrashers to True North Sports and Entertainment, which owns and operates the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League and the MTS Centre arena, which would become the NHL team’s new home."

The report also states NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is expected to be in Winnipeg to make the news official.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly also downplayed the report, saying "as far as we know, there is nothing done. Certainly, the board has not approved anything," said Daly.

The Globe and Mail is owned by True North partner David Thomson.

The story was written by Globe and Mail columnist Stephen Brunt, one of the country’s most respected sports writers.

Rumours were circulating in Winnipeg on Thursday that a press conference was being planned for early next week although none of the reports came from a source within True North

True North has been negotiating with Atlanta Spirit Group for a number of weeks in an attempt to buy the Thrashers.

Reports have said the purchase price will be $170 million with $60 million of that amount going to the league as a relocation fee.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

- With files from Alexandra Paul

History

Updated on Thursday, May 19, 2011 at 9:23 PM CDT: Adds information

10:00 PM: Adds details and quotes

11:03 PM: Adds colour from scene at Portage and Main

11:50 PM: Adds photos from Portage and Main

11:57 PM: Adds video interview of ASG owner

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