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As True North Sports and Entertainment Ltd., and the owners of the Atlanta Thrashers put the finishing touches on their agreement in principle, the big question is when the sale and move of the Thrashers to Winnipeg will be announced.

When The Globe and Mail originally reported True North and Atlanta Spirit LLC, the Thrasher owners, reached an agreement in principle last Thursday, sources said word was sent to stakeholders in Manitoba to expect a press conference on Tuesday.

However, even though sources with knowledge of the deal still thought by late Monday an announcement could be made, the legal and banking details were not finished in time. The fact Canadian banks were closed Monday for the Victoria Day holiday was also a factor.

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The deal also needs to be approved by the NHL's board of governors, although that can be done on short notice.

If those details are worked out quickly, and sources said progress was made on the weekend, the announcement could come as early as Thursday or be postponed until next week.

It should also be considered that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman likes news events to occur on the league's schedule. He also dislikes other hockey events, like the bankruptcy or move of a team, to be announced during the playoffs and especially on the day of a game.

Since there could be NHL playoff games every night this week until Sunday, it is possible the announcement could be delayed until next Monday.

True North also wants to have a season-ticket drive, which will serve as the first indicator of the team's chances for success, to be part of the announcement. For that reason, True North wants the announcement to be made on a business day other than Friday in order to have maximum impact. There is no wish to make the announcement when people are on the verge of going away for the weekend.

There is nothing other than the final details of the agreement standing in the way of the NHL returning to Winnipeg 15 years after the Jets left to become the Phoenix Coyotes. As soon as they are wrapped up, the $170-million (all currency U.S.) purchase price will be transferred to the NHL and Atlanta Spirit, something that could happen as early as Tuesday.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Monday the last group interested in buying the Thrashers and keeping them in Atlanta dropped out of the picture.

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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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