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NHL official 'can't guarantee' Thrashers future

7:03 PM, May 12, 2011   |    comments
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The Flyers had 43 shots on goal in their 1-0 loss to the Thrashers. (AP)

ATLANTA -- A top NHL Official told 11Alive's Matt Pearl Thursday he could "make no guarantees relating to this team's future, either as it relates to ownership in Atlanta or to the potential of a franchise relocation."

Bill Daly, the league's Deputy Commissioner was candid in his assessment of the troubled franchise's future.

"The team's ownership has made significant efforts over the past several years to sell this franchise and transition ownership locally," Daly said via email.

But despite ongoing rumors that a deal to move the Thrashers to Winnipeg could be near, Daly said, "there is no deal in place currently to sell this team and relocate it".

Dominoes began to fall when the city of Glendale, Ariz., made moves to keep the Phoenix Coyotes there.

Glendale seems as unlikely a place as any to determine the fate of a hockey franchise a coastline away.

But when the city agreed to pony up $25 million to keep the Coyotes, the NHL-backed franchise, the Thrashers' future in Atlanta dimmed.

Waiting breathlessly is the city of Winnipeg, hungry to regain a hockey team. At first they hoped for Phoenix, the team that was once their Jets. Now, only Atlanta may be left.

And as Commissioner Gary Bettman invested hours and manpower to keep the Coyotes in the desert, as 680 The Fan sports radio host John Kincade points out, there has been less effort here.

A spokesman for the Mayor of Atlanta's office told 11Alive's Jeff Hullinger Wednesday Kasim Reed has reached out to business leaders but nothing has presented itself yet, adding if the team leaves, it will be a major blow to the city and business.

Kevin Allen, a hockey writer with USA Today says a deal could come within week's end. Others speculate by the end of the Stanley Cup.

Forbes Magazine reports the Atlanta Spirit are looking for $110 million from investors including Tom Glavine. 11Alive first reported Tom Glavine was trying to cobble together a group of investors to keep the team in Atlanta.

"I have a huge interest in keeping the team here," Glavine said. "Whether that's helping facilitate putting together a group locally or being part of another group in some way shape or form, those are all things I'm open to."

Other whiffs of investors have emerged, but so far nothing has stuck.

Michael Gearon of Atlanta Spirit, LLC, the group that owns the Thrashers, would not comment on any potential investors.

"Interested groups continue to explore the opportunity," Gearon said. "Something of this magnitude takes time, and right now, there is nothing imminent to report. Our hope is to keep this team in Atlanta, where we fully believe the fans will support a winning product on the ice."

Bettman said in April he did not expect the Thrashers to leave. It is unclear how the team can continue to stay.

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