NHL Board approves Winnipeg sale, relocation

Jun 21, 2011 - 10:39 PM New York, NY (Sports Network) - Winnipeg officially has an NHL team again.

The league's Board of Governors approved the sale and relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Manitoba at its meeting in New York on Tuesday.

True North Sports and Entertainment bought the club from the Atlanta Spirit group for a reported $170 million and paid the league a $60 million relocation fee to move the franchise to Winnipeg, which hosted the NHL's Jets until their departure to Phoenix in 1996.

"We are very honored by the NHL Board of Governors unanimous decision today," said True North chairman Mark Chipman. "We know that the fans of this province have an appetite for NHL hockey that is rivaled by few in the league and intend to work very hard to make Manitobans proud of our franchise for years to come."

The unnamed Winnipeg club will play the 2011-12 season out of the Southeast Division and play its home games at the MTS Centre, which previously housed the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League. The NHL is expected to realign the divisions in 2012-13.

Originally, Winnipeg was home to the Jets, who began life in the World Hockey Association in 1972 before joining the NHL in 1979. The franchise moved to the desert for the 1996-97 season.

Meanwhile, it was another failed experiment for the NHL in Atlanta, which first hosted the Flames from 1972-80 before the club moved to Calgary. The Thrashers began play during the 1999-2000 campaign and made the playoffs just once, suffering a four-game sweep at the hands of the New York Rangers in 2007.

"We deeply regret that Atlanta's ownership was unable to secure local partners after exhausting every option and alternative," said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. "At the same time, we are delighted that NHL hockey is returning to Winnipeg and to a fan-base that already is showing so much support for its team. We congratulate Mark Chipman, David Thomson and True North on their patience, their preparation and their professionalism, and we look forward to the start of a new era for the franchise."

This marks the first franchise relocation in the NHL since 1997, when the Hartford Whalers became the Carolina Hurricanes.

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