After 15 long years, it looks like Winnipeg will once again have its own hockey team. Rumors are swirling around the league right now that the Atlanta Thrashers move north is all but a done deal.
The Phoenix Coyotes, the original Winnipeg Jets before the team relocated a decade-and-a-half ago, were first said to be heading to the ‘Peg, however, Glendale, Arizona officials recently agreed to a $25 million subsidy for the Phoenix Coyotes’ 2011-12 season to allow the team the time necessary to finalize new ownership. When that happened, the attention turned to the league’s other cash-strapped organization, the Atlanta Thrashers.
Atlanta Spirit, the Thrashers owners, has claimed approximately $130 million in losses since 2005 and has made it pretty clear that they no longer want the team. A buyer interested in keeping the team in Atlanta has not yet stepped up, and so Winnipeg has become the next best option for the financially sinking franchise. True North Sports and Entertainment, a Winnipeg based company, is willing to buy the team for $110 million and pay $60 million to the league as a relocation fee.
While Atlanta fans are bummed, the city of Winnipeg is rejoicing at the possibility of having an NHL team represent their town once again.
One fan of the move is former Winnipeg Jets goaltender Bob Essensa, who started his career with the team. In this week’s hockey quote of the week, Essena reflects on all the possibilities that this move has to offer:
"I feel as a Canadian, that you felt a loss when you saw teams move from Quebec (Nordiques when they became the Colorado Avalanche) and Manitoba, areas that can support and love the game of hockey," said Essensa. "From a purely hockey standpoint, it's nice to see them get another team in that market."On the financial struggles some Canadian teams have experienced in the past:
"Back when I was in the 'Peg, I think the exchange rate was 40 cents on the dollar. That was a long time ago," he said. "It was tough for those cities to compete and on the free agent market it was even tougher."On the talent that the team has and who it will attract:
"I think they stand a much better chance of attracting players. I know what coach Ramsey stands for and he'll certainly attract players as well," said Essensa. "They are already starting from the base of a nice hockey club so they shouldn't have much to worry about."