Kari Lehtonen. Ilya Kovalchuk. Marian Hossa. They all became household names playing in Atlanta.
Now the ailing team would play in a new city, Winnipeg -- Manitoba's largest city, which had lost its own NHL franchise to Phoenix in 1996.
Efforts to sell the Thrashers locally were hampered by the dispute within the ownership group. A settlement had been reached months earlier to buy out Boston-based co-owner Steve Belkin, who had a long-standing beef with the group over the signing of Hawks star Joe Johnson. (The Atlanta Spirit also owned the Hawks.)
True North stepped in with a deal worth $170 million, including a $60 million relocation fee.
“Our objective was always to find a solution to keep the team in Atlanta, and we spent a considerable amount of time, effort and resources trying to do so,” Thrashers co-owner Bruce Levenson said at the time. “This is not the outcome we wanted and it's extremely disappointing that a buyer or significant investor did not come forward that would enable us to keep the team in Atlanta.”
The Atlanta Spirit ownership sold the Thrashers to True North Sports and Entertainment, making Atlanta the first city in the NHL’s modern era to lose two teams.
On June 21, the NHL’s board approved the sale and the move. The Thrashers would become the Jets, and Canada would gain its second NHL franchise directly from Atlanta. The Atlanta Flames were an NHL franchise from 1972 to 1980, when they became the Calgary Flames.
Since moving to Winnipeg, the Jets have been maligned with little success and money woes.