Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hungry for final NHL decision

Thursday appetizer a start, now for the main course -- where's the beef?

  • Print

Winnipeg was served up an NHL appetizer Thursday night but it will now have to wait for the main course.

The city is all bibbed up with knife and fork in hand and ready to chow down but the steak is still on the grill.

Related Items

Here's hoping Chef Gary Bettman determines it can be served medium rare and not well done because the customers are licking their lips and getting a little antsy.

The wait for the return of the NHL has already been interminable and has now reached new heights of the absurd.

Having folks party at Portage and Main on Thursday on the basis of what appear to be slightly premature reports is likely just the beginning of some heady days for Winnipeg hockey fans.

The Globe and Mail reported Thursday night that a deal between True North Sports and Entertainment and Atlanta Spirit Group was done and the Atlanta Thrashers would be moving to Winnipeg.

Almost immediately True North, Thrashers management and the NHL shot down the report saying a deal was not done.

Maybe semantics, maybe not. Credible sources told the Free Press Thursday night there were still "material issues," to be ironed out before a deal could be struck.

Sources said early Friday that negotiations were continuing and that a deal was expected to be reached.

When? No one is saying but at this stage it may or may not just be a formality.

Premier Greg Selinger hinted at a Tuesday press conference.

"Let's make sure we've got the ink dry," Selinger said. "Let's see what happens on Tuesday."

Published reports continued to break on Friday stating a deal was done and True North spokesman Scott Brown reiterated his company's stance saying simply, "a deal is not done."

Certainly there's lots of smoke right now and quite likely just as much fire. But until an official announcement is made or a legitimate source from True North, the NHL or Atlanta Spirit confirms a deal, there's nothing to sink one's teeth into. Globe columnist Stephen Brunt broke the Globe story and was sticking by it on Friday.

"David Thomson is a partner in True North Sports and Entertainment and owns the newspaper I work for. We don't move in the same social circles and I did not get this story from him," said Brunt. "But this story is on the front page of his newspaper."

Take from that what you will, but the Globe didn't offer a retraction Friday.

Down in Atlanta, the Thrashers are moving ahead with a planned season ticket holder party for today and, in fact, the organization sold at least one season ticket package on Friday.

Perhaps just as telling, however, is Thrashers' ownership not getting out in front of this story with a firm on-the-record denial. No one is coming out and putting their name on a denial because they would look like a liar if and when the deal is officially completed in the coming days.

Next up is likely another round of leaks saying the deal is officially done and shortly after that True North Sports and Entertainment will step forth to announce they have reached a conditional offer to purchase and relocate the Thrashers to Winnipeg.

The deal will be conditional on NHL board of governor approval. Commissioner Gary Bettman reportedly received permission from the executive committee to allow this deal to move forward but once it closes, BOG approval will still be required.

Expect that approval to hinge on the success of a marketplace test in the form of a season ticket drive.

Sources say customers will be asked to make three-year commitments and it's believed the threshold for success will be north of 10,000 season ticket packages.

So there's still some hurdles to cross in Winnipeg's pursuit of an NHL franchise.

Perhaps we're down to mere formalities but this community will breathe much easier once they see that main course being wheeled out of the kitchen.

Somebody let the waiter know we are ready.

Damn ready.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 21, 2011 C1

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Selinger addresses stadium lawsuit

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS  070527 The 21st Annual Teddy Bears' Picnic at Assiniboine Park. The Orlan Ukrainian Dancers perform on stage.
  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local/Weather Standup- Catching rays. Prairie Dog stretches out at Fort Whyte Centre. Fort Whyte has a Prairie Dog enclosure with aprox. 20 dogs young and old. 060607.

View More Gallery Photos

About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.


Will Connor McDavid make the Edmonton Oilers a playoff team?

View Results

Ads by Google