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Moving the Thrashers not out of the question

At the risk of getting the hopes of Winnipeg fans too high, there is a situation they should know about now that Glendale's politicians and bureaucrats led their taxpayers to the precipice in order to keep the Phoenix Coyotes.

While NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly says otherwise, someone who is familiar with these matters told us the other day the covenant all NHL owners have with the league, the one where they promise not to move the team for seven years, expires this fall in the case of the Atlanta Thrashers. The covenant is part of the NHL's consent agreement all owners must sign when they buy a team, as the Thrasher owners did in 2004.

However, in this case the Thrashers' lead owners, Bruce Levenson and Michael Gearon, have been trying to unload the team for ages. There is no buyer in sight, at least a buyer who is willing to keep the team in Atlanta, where it costs the owners megabucks to keep it alive.

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In the meantime, True North Sports and Entertainment Ltd., up in Winnipeg is willing to pay loads o' dough ($170-million perhaps?) to bring an NHL franchise back to Manitoba.

If I were Levenson and Gearon, and if the covenant really expires after seven years, I would be inclined to tell NHL commissioner Gary Bettman I'm not going to renew the covenant. In fact, I'm seriously considering an application to relocate. And once that is granted, I'm going to sell the whole shebang to True North.

Now, the permission of the NHL governors is required in order to move a team. But it would be tough for them to say no because Bettman himself, plus Daly, has wondered out loud in recent months if the time is coming for the Thrashers to try their luck elsewhere.

Trying the old Jim Balsillie end around, as in Jim Balsillie is not a fit NHL owner, is a non-starter, too. Arguing that True North is not a worthy NHL owner simply won't wash, not after Bettman repeatedly used True North's standing offer for the Coyotes as a lever to squeeze many millions of dollars out of the Glendale rubes.

As your agent wrote in the past, moving the Thrashers is not a slam dunk, despite the many machinations going on behind the scenes, but it's not out of the picture, either.

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About the Author
Hockey columnist

A native of Wainfleet, Ont., David Shoalts joined The Globe in 1984 after working at the Calgary Herald, Calgary Sun and Toronto Sun. He graduated in 1978 from Conestoga College and also attended the University of Waterloo. More

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