Winnipeg celebrated the return of the National Hockey League Tuesday after 15 years when the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg’s True North Sports and Entertainment was finally announced, with the Thrashers relocating to the Manitoba capital in time for the 2011-12 NHL season.
In St. John’s Tuesday, Danny Williams was hoping St. John’s could celebrate a return to the American Hockey League after six years. Instead, the former premier said he and his group were “scrambling” to nail down a deal.
Williams and former St. John’s Maple Leafs director of operations Glenn Stanford have been negotiating with True North for weeks, hoping to relocate the Manitoba Moose to St. John’s where that team would become the farm club to the new NHL team.
The deal on this end hit a snag last week when the provincial government rejected a proposal from St. John’s Sports and Entertainment, operators of Mile One Centre, for $500,000 annually, which would be used towards travel costs.
“We are going to be required to respond virtually right away,” Williams said Tuesday, following the long-anticipated announcement in Winnipeg. “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.”
Williams said the leasing fee for the team — True North would remain the owner — in addition to the lease for Mile One and travel costs has expenditures 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,” he said.