Mayors weigh in on Atlanta-Winnipeg situation Staff

5/24/2011 6:21:28 PM

The mayors of Winnipeg and Atlanta both spoke out regarding their respective cities' NHL sagas on Tuesday and the tone of their statements seem to suggest that a potential sale and move of the Thrashers to Manitoba is progressing ever closer.

In an interview with The National Post, Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz said that with negotiations between ownership groups Atlanta Spirit and True North continuing, he expects a deal to be done very shortly.

"We certainly believe - and keep in mind - we're not part of the private sector, which is actually doing the one-on-one negotiations. But we certainly do believe it's going to happen very shortly within the next couple of days. We certainly do believe that," Katz told the Post.

Katz cites the calendar as a key reason why timing will be critical in fueling negotiations toward a possible deal.

"The reason is anybody who has any knowledge of running an NHL franchise, the thing would be to do it as soon as you can or wait until after the Stanley Cup playoffs," explained Katz. "And every week or two makes such a difference when you're trying to gear up for something like this.

"I think the astute business move would be to get it done ASAP and to me that's in the next 48 hours. Before this week is over, for sure."

In the meantime, the mayor of Atlanta said on Tuesday that sees no local buyer willing to buy the Thrashers and keep the team in Atlanta.

Speaking to an NBC television affiliate in Atlanta, Kasim Reed explained that the Thrashers' financial losses are the main reason that the team is not an appealing investment for local buyers.

"We have not yet had any of the individuals in our community prepared to take that on, but it's not for a lack of trying," said Reed.

The mayor also reflected on the reality that Atlanta may be on the verge of losing NHL hockey for the second time. The Atlanta Flames moved to Calgary following the 1979-80 season.

"Anytime we lose a major sports franchise, it's tough," Reed told NBC television affiliate Channel 11. "It's going to hurt the city, but we'll withstand it and get through it. We have a lot of positive things going on in the sports franchise space that we'll be announcing soon."

On Tuesday, Hockey Insider Darren Dreger cited sources close to the Atlanta-Winnipeg negotiation as saying that it's possible, but unlikely, that the two sides will complete a transaction by Thursday or Friday. Dreger also noted that it is difficult to establish a firm timeline on when a deal might be announced.

Dreger further cites sources as saying that efforts are being made to ensure that Atlanta, Winnipeg and the National Hockey League are all on board with the intricacies of the deal and it has proven to be a very time-consuming process.

The St. John's Telegram reported over the weekend that a deal is already in place to move the AHL's Manitoba Moose to St. John's for next season, but the newspaper noted that an announcement will not be made until the sale and transfer of the Thrashers to Winnipeg is finalized.