Atlanta hockey team moving to Canada…again

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Thrashers are going the way of the Atlanta Flames.

The Atlanta Spirit on Tuesday announced they are selling the team to True North Sports. Pending confirmation by the league and team owners, the team will relocate to Winnipeg.

“It's extremely disappointing to all of us that it became necessary after all other options were exhausted,” owners Bruce Levenson and Michael Gearon said in a statement. “We want to express our gratitude to you, the fans, for the years of dedication you have offered to the Atlanta Thrashers.”

The team's owners said they sold the team to True North Sports after it could not find a buyer that would keep the team in Atlanta.

“In recent months, we openly indicated a growing urgency to secure assistance in off-setting our operating losses in hopes that our public plea would produce investors who, to that point, had eluded us,” the owners said.

“After extensive effort, nobody has come forward. As a result, we had no choice but to explore the investment option presented to us by the NHL in the form of True North Sports and Entertainment,” they added.

FULL STATEMENT

Earlier today, we, along with our partners, signed an asset purchase agreement to sell the Atlanta Thrashers to True North Sports and Entertainment. If ratified by the NHL, Commissioner Bettman and the league's Board of Governors, this will result in the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg, Canada beginning with the 2011-2012 season.

It's extremely disappointing to all of us that it became necessary after all other options were exhausted. We want to express our gratitude to you, the fans, for the years of dedication you have offered to the Atlanta Thrashers.

As many of you know, for some time we have been seeking a buyer for the team or a partner willing to join with us in continuing to fund the team. We hired an investment banking firm to seek out potential investors with the expressed goal of finding someone who would keep the team here in Atlanta. In recent months, we openly indicated a growing urgency to secure assistance in off-setting our operating losses in hopes that our public plea would produce investors who, to that point, had eluded us.

After extensive effort, nobody has come forward. As a result, we had no choice but to explore the investment option presented to us by the NHL in the form of True North Sports and Entertainment.

Relocation of the Thrashers is not the outcome that any of us ultimately wanted. We knew when we purchased the club in 2004, that professional sports teams are seldom, if ever, money-making investments but rather vital community assets. We believed in the overall impact that the team had on the sports landscape of Atlanta, and over the past seven years, invested a significant amount of money into what we felt was an integral piece of the greater metropolitan Atlanta area. We are truly grateful to have been a part of this city's professional hockey history, to have made an indelible impact on the community through our players' outreach, our organization's activities and our foundation's donations, and most of all, to have been a part of paying tribute to you, our fans, each and every time our team stepped on the ice.

Thank you for the opportunity to be entertained, thrilled and inspired alongside you by Atlanta Thrashers hockey. None of this would have been possible without your support.

Sincerely,

Bruce Levenson and Michael Gearon

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