WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) -- The Atlanta Thrashers are moving to Winnipeg.
True North Sports and Entertainment announced Tuesday at Winnipeg's MTS Centre that it has purchased the struggling team and will shift it to Canada this season.
The deal is reportedly worth $170 million, including a $60 million relocation fee that would be split by the rest of the league.
Winnipeg has been without NHL hockey since the Jets moved to Phoenix in 1996. The Thrashers entered the league three years later as an expansion franchise, but ownership problems, a losing team and dwindling attendance doomed the club.
The deal still must be approved by the board of governors, but that shouldn't be an issue.
Around 1 p.m. Tuesday, Thrashers owners Bruce Levenson and Michael Gearon released the following statement:
May 31, 2011
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 my 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 express 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 which, 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.
Bruce Levenson and Michael Gearon