Thrashers mum on team's status

Updated: May 17, 2011, 12:09 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Atlanta Thrashers president Don Waddell, amid reports his club was in negotiations on a sale that would result in its relocation to Winnipeg, declined to specifically address the team's status when reached Monday by ESPN.com.

"We continue to explore all our options regarding the future of the Thrashers," he told ESPN.com in an email.

The Thrashers and the NHL have insisted recently they're focused on keeping the financially struggling team in Atlanta.

But the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Monday the Thrashers and Winnipeg-based True North Sports and Entertainment had begun working on terms of a deal that would move the team to Canada.

Officials from True North and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly had no comment when reached by ESPN.com.

The franchise's plight took on new urgency last week when officials in Glendale, Ariz., voted to subsidize the Phoenix Coyotes for another year while that team tries to complete a deal with a new owner.

Bruce Levenson, part of the ownership group that controls the Thrashers, the NBA's Atlanta Hawks and operating rights to Philips Arena, also would not confirm the Journal-Constitution report Monday that Thrashers owners would relocate the team to Winnipeg.

"We've never commented, and aren't going to start now, on who we're talking to or not talking to," Levenson told The Associated Press. "Even if I wanted to, I can't, because whenever we engage in any kinds of serious discussions with anybody, we sign confidentiality agreements. We always honor those."

Levenson said last week he was still trying to find a buyer to keep the team in Atlanta, but he added "Nobody has pushed forward with an offer."

While seeking buyers for two years, Levenson has consistently said he was limiting his search to those interested in keeping the team in Atlanta.

Levenson would not confirm Monday if he has been given the go-ahead from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to negotiate with possible buyers who would move the team.

True North has made it clear it wants to bring NHL hockey back to Winnipeg. The Jets moved from the Canadian city to Phoenix in 1996 because of financial problems, but the city has since built a new arena.

The Thrashers' owners acknowledged in court documents that they have been looking to sell the team for years, but those efforts were complicated by a long running dispute with former co-owner Steve Belkin. That dispute was finally settled in December.

If the Thrashers were to leave, Atlanta would become the first city in the NHL's modern era to lose two franchises. The Flames moved to Calgary in 1980 after eight seasons in the Deep South.

Information from ESPN.com's Scott Burnside, Pierre LeBrun and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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