The rumors are rampant that the Atlanta Thrashers will be sold to the billionaire David Thomson, 3rd Baron Thomson of Fleet, who will move the team to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Reports say this will become official on Tuesday. Assuming this deal goes through it will have a big impact on city of Glendale's efforts to keep the Phoenix Coyotes tied to the publicly owned Jobing.com Arena.
Until that happens, there's still hope for the Thrashers' dedicated fans. Our sympathies go out to them. It is never easy for a city to lose a team.
Ever since incompetent owner Jerry Moyes put the team in bankruptcy in 2009, the leverage has been heavily on the side of the NHL and any new owner. With the city having invested $180 million in the arena in 2003, there was no way they could allow the Coyotes to leave without leaving huge financial hole.
With Glendale desperate to keep the team, prospective owner Matthew Hulsizer was able to negotiate very favorable terms. Baron Thomson of Fleet's True North Entertainment was just begging to take the team back to Winnipeg which put all the leverage against the city.
The deal was eventually approved by the city but sunk through the efforts of the Goldwater Institute. While their meddling and tactics were outrageous, the net effect might just end up saving the city some money. Glendale's stalling tactic of approving an additional $25 million payment to the NHL bought another year to get a deal done and now there's no immediate threat of an alternative when the parties return to the table.
If the Thrashers are the team that satisfies Winnipeg's lust, the threat of an alternative removed from the table and Glendale is in a more favorable position to negotiate with Hulsizer or anyone else. The NHL has shown they want to stay in the Phoenix market and unless they want to revive the Ottawa option they have no choice but to push Hulsizer into a more favorable agreement for the city.
We feel for the Thrashers' fans but their loss is our gain.