This week, it was announced (finally) that the Atlanta Thrashers have been sold to True North Sports and Entertainment and will be packing their bags for Winnipeg, Manitoba.
This move will no doubt result in eventual conference realignment, but I think it means much more than that. The decision from the NHL to allow a struggling team in a big media market to relocate to a town the size of Winnipeg was a breach of the personal code Commissioner Bettman has lived by for the last 20 years.
Ever since the mid-'90s push to spread the game to new markets like Florida, North Carolina, Dallas, Phoenix and Atlanta, Bettman has stood by his decisions, no matter how much money the teams were losing.
In May 2009, in an effort to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix, Bettman and the NHL seized the team out of bankruptcy and have held the reins ever since. However, in allowing the sale of the Thrashers to move forward, Bettman has conceded that maybe the southern expansion wasn’t what the NHL, or the game of hockey, really needed.
Teams in non-traditional hockey markets have experienced lackluster fan support, poor team performance and out of date facilities, and many owners are now left holding the bill.
Here are the three teams I think could be on the move in the next few seasons, as well as a few possible landing spots.