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Gaglardi Group Starts Rumors of Moving Thrashers

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This article in the Star suggests a group of investors from Vancouver are making noise about buying the Thrashers and moving them to Hamilton.

It is a free country and people are allowed to say and write whatever the feel, but for a newspaper to publish this story and fail to mention that nobody has clear title to the team is rather astonishing to me. Let me make this very simple: YOU CAN'T BUY SOMETHING WHEN NOBODY OWNS IT.

But an inside hockey source told the Spectator that Gaglardi is interested in moving the Thrashers to Hamilton, possibly in time for the 2010 season.

This speculative quote in particular should have been followed up by some mention of the fact that whichever side losses the most recent court decision will have one more appeal available and odds are they will use that appeal. That means the case has be put on the docket, filings must be made, oral arguments and then decision writing. The odds are that in 2010 the owners of the Thrashers will still be battling each other in a Maryland courtroom and nobody will be making any moving plans. A five minute search on google would have revealed these basic facts to whomever penned this article.

Then at the tail end of the article the reporter gets a quote from a local official who admits that there is way more rumor than facts circulating in Hamilton right now.

A well-placed source in the business community, speaking on condition he not be named, said the frenzied climate around NHL hockey, Hamilton, Toronto and Vaughan has made it impossible to separate legitimate bids from possibilities and mere rumours.

He described five different scenarios that continue to crop up in conversations, though he emphasized there is no way to know how solid some of them are.

"I don't know what's real and not real," the source said.

The future of the Thrashers rest in the hands of a judge in Maryland--but don't let facts get in the way of speculation.

Finally, here's something for peole to chew. If you own the Thrashers/HawksPhilips Arena selling and moving the Thrashers entails some signifiant losses. The naming rights deal is cancelled (and Philips would be happy to get out of it) and the market for naming rights is done such that an equvialent deal is rather unlikely. Every luxury box agreement is open to re-negotiation and numerous corprorations in this market are looking to cut entertainment expenses in this economy. Finally Philips Arena (which is owned by--well whomever owns the teams) would losse have to fill 44 nights of parking and concessions $$ that the Thrashers currently provide.

Even if the Thrashers are losing money (which I'm sure they are) selling them would still entail additional financial losses to the remaing Hawks/Philips Arena entity. The best solution for current ownership would simply be to keep the Thrashers in Philips and make them competitive and profitable.

EDIT: Here is my summary of what GM Don Waddell said late in the season about talk of the Thrashers moving at the Town Hall Meeting.

Someone asked if we should fear the Thrashers moving? DW: "This basically comes from the Canadian media looking at our empty seats. They raise this question all the time for Nashville, Florida and us." He went on to indicate that empty seats are not necessarily a good indicator of the future of a franchise. "We're too tied to this building to be moved." He noted that Philips naming rights and other sources of revenue that would be lost if the teams left town. "We can't go anywhere and we won't go anywhere." Finally he tossed in this bon mot "When we were up in the league office preparing for the ownership trial they remarked that 'for all your ownership issues, at least you guys pay your bills.'" DW said that despite low attendance there were a number of teams in much worse financial shape than Atlanta.

UPDATE:  Chris Vivlamore of the AJC has a fairly definitive "no" from Don Waddell. The most interesting part was this little wrinkle that the ownership signed a letter to the NHL to keep the team in the city.

[A]ccording to Waddell, the ownership group signed a commitment letter to the league to keep the team in Atlanta a specified number of years. Waddell would not disclose the number of years left on the letter but said it was "multiple."

Pat Foley addresses this with the appropriate level of sarcasm it deserves and rounds out his article with a list of 10 reasons the Thrashers will not be moving.