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Vancouver Group Looks to Move Atlanta Thrashers to Hamilton ?

Kevin van Steendelaar@@LeTirEtLeButAnalyst IMay 10, 2009

PITTSBURGH - MARCH 17: Johan Hedberg #1 of the Atlanta Thrashers puts the net back on its moorings in his game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 17, 2009 at the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Move over Jim Balsillie, you aren't the only one in Southern Ontario looking to bring an NHL team to Hamilton.

The Hamilton Spectator reported Saturday that a Vancouver-based group is interested in moving the, financially strapped, Atlanta Thrashers to Canada's steel city.

A source told the newspaper that the proposal is being led by Vancouver developer Tom Gaglardi and that he would be interested in moving the team to the city, possibly in time for the 2010 season.

The source stated this week that Gaglardi, president of Northland Properties, the parent company of Sandman Hotels, is the key principal in the second hockey group interested in Hamilton.

Gaglardi heads River City Hockey Inc., a five-man group including NHL stars Jarome Iginla, Mark Recchi, Shane Doan and Darryl Sydor, which purchased the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League in 2007.

He failed in his bid to buy the Vancouver Canucks five years ago, and also has business ties to fellow Vancouver developer Nelson Skalbania.

Skalbania, the former Edmonton Oilers owner, was a major player behind the relocation of the former Atlanta Flames to Calgary.

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It is unconfirmed, however, if Skalbania is involved in the possible second relocation of an Atlanta hockey club north of the border.

While Gaglardi was unavailable for any comment, the source also suggested the Hamilton move may be a temporary one until a permanent location can be found.

This is the second known proposal to bring an existing NHL franchise to Hamilton in the last week, or is it?

Speaking on CTV's Question Period on Sunday morning, Hamilton mayor Fred Eisenberger would not confirm or deny any other proposals, and that the Balsillie offer is the only one the city is currently is discussion with.

Eisenberger also clarified that the Spectator's report that he was meeting with Gaglardi's representatives, next week, were inaccurate.

"We've had discussions with others, we're going to leave it at that, but the primary person we're dealing with right now and that we hope to put together an arrangement with for Copps Coliseum is Mr. Balsillie," said Eisenberger.

"That's what we're currently working on, that's what we'll continue to work on and we hope by the middle of the week sometime we'll have something in place that will work for him and work for our city."

"I did say I was going to communicate with others. I'm not having a personal meeting with anyone other than Mr. Balsillie's group," said Eisenberger.

"Those discussions have been going on for quite sometime. I don't know that they're going to bear fruit in the near term but certainly right now we know Mr. Balsillie is in the throws of trying to secure a team and that's the person we're going to be dealing with."

“He is the only bona fide proposal that’s on the table right now and that’s the one we’re going to work with and put to bed by the middle of the week.”

Balsillie has requested a May 13 deadline for sealing a lease deal to lock up Hamilton's Copps Colliseum.

The arena's principal tenant at the moment is the Montreal Canadiens' AHL affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs.

Outside of the Balsillie and Gaglardi offers, there are rumoured to be as many as three other proposals to bring the NHL to Hamilton.

An unnamed source may have summed up the Hamilton situation best.

Citing the hockey hysteria in Toronto and surrounding areas and what proposals are legitimate, the source stated, "I don't know what's real and not real."

Thrashers’ general manager Don Waddell denied the team is moving in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this weekend.

“There is no truth to it,” he said.

“We are not a movable franchise. I have talked to our owners and no one has had contact with any group.”

Waddell said there are several factors currently blocking any relocation of the team, including an ongoing lawsuit over its ownership and commitments to the city’s arena and the NHL.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has also gone on record this week that the NHL would look to keeping a franchise in it's current city before and proposals to move a team.

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