If True North Sports and Entertainment and the Atlanta Spirit Group can complete their transaction in time, Winnipeg hockey fans should expect the stars to come out in 2011-12.
The next NHL season could well feature multiple visits to Winnipeg by two of the game’s most dynamic players; Washington Capitals’ Alexander Ovechkin could be here three times and Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby could play at the MTS Centre twice.
That’s because it appears any Winnipeg return to the NHL for next season will keep the team in the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference.
An Eastern Conference team source has told the Free Press that his club has already been told to expect two trips to Winnipeg next season.
That indicates the league will likely stand pat for another season with its current divisional and conference alignment, one that would keep Winnipeg in Atlanta’s current slot in the Southeast Division.
The NHL would then take the next year or so to figure out what to do with a divisional and conference realignment.
If the Thrashers are relocated to Winnipeg, the team would still have Tampa Bay, Florida, Carolina and Washington as its division rivals, and play six games (three in each city) against each of them. The team would also play four games (two in each city) against the other 10 clubs from the Eastern Conference.
A Winnipeg team’s remaining 18 games would be spread among Western Conference teams and certainly not all of them would be visiting the MTS Centre in 2011-12.
True North and Atlanta Spirit continue negotiations today. Sources tell the Free Press there is not yet a deal, no press conference is on the schedule but that work continues on an agreement.