About an hour before True North Sports and Entertainment held its long-awaited news conference announcing the purchase and relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers NHL team to Winnipeg, Man., Danny Williams met with the St. John’s media and announced his group is “scrambling” to get a deal done that will see the new Winnipeg club move its American Hockey League franchise to the Newfoundland capital and Mile One Centre.
“We are going to be required to respond virtually right away,” Williams said this afternoon. “I’m not talking seconds or minutes or hours, but it will be a very, very short time frame. This could slip away on us very easily.”
St. John’s and True North have a verbal agreement in place to relocate the Manitoba Moose to St. John’s for the 2011-12 AHL season, but Williams and Co. must first reach a lease agreement with Mile One. A proposal for a $500,000 subsidy from the provincial government, which would go towards assisting the St. John’s club in travel costs, was rejected.
“The franchise fee, plus the city lease arrangement, plus the travel in excess of $3 million … if we can’t nail those down and lock those away in reasonable prices, this deal simply doesn’t happen.”
Williams said the city has been very co-operative in its negotiations, although he did note the rejection of the provincial government money has been a “setback.”
“But I want this to happen and I will do everything in my power to make it happen because I know it’s the last time we’ll get a golden opportunity like this. We’re working pretty hard, but at this point there are absolutely no guarantees.”