ATLANTA - The fate of the Atlanta Thrashers remained unclear Friday as several, often conflicting, reports circulated in the Atlanta and Canadian media.
Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz said he believes a deal has been reached to make his city the new home of the Thrashers, CTV.ca reported online Friday. "Do I believe an agreement is there? Absolutely," he told CTV News Channel.
"I think the only thing that could happen to basically
derail this is for some local ownership group to come up with an offer to keep
the team there," Katz said during the phone interview with CTV.
Thursday night Toronto newspaper The Globe and Mail reported that a deal had been reached that would bring the Thrashers NHL franchise to Winnipeg. "Sources confirmed Thursday night that preparations are being made for an announcement Tuesday, confirming the sale and transfer of the Thrashers to True North Sports and Entertainment," The Globe and Mail reported.
The Winnipeg Free Press has reported that "a high ranking True North official involved in negotiations to buy the Thrashers said the Globe stor was '100 percent untrue.'"
"I have been told to keep all options open," Atlanta Thrashers President Don Waddell told 11Alive News via email. That statement certainly lends credibility to the denial by the NHL and the Thrashers organization that the Winnipeg deal is done.
Despite the denials, Toronto's Globe and Mail newspaper has not retracted its report that the deal is done and an announcement is coming Tuesday.
Despite the conflicting reports, hockey fans in Winnipeg have been jubilant about the prospects of the NHL returning to their city after a 15 year absence. Fans took to the streets Thursday night, celebrating the Globe and Mail report.
The notion that any deal, with any investor was final also seemed to be refuted by Thrashers co-owner Michael Gearon, Jr. during an interview with 11Alive News' Jeff Hullinger Thursday night.
"I read Canadian papers and everything I read - the indication seems to be Winnipeg is on track and everything is going well with this (David) Thomson fellow," Hullinger said to Gearon.
"I don't know. I heard the same thing about J.B. Smith (the mysterious "Balkan" investor) stepping in," Gearon replied. "There are uncertainties in other markets. It's a league (NHL) question. "
"I'm focused on keeping this team here. I wish I had some help," Gearon added.
Meanwhile, Atlanta Thrashers fans are organizing a rally and tailgate to show their support for the team. The event is scheduled for Saturday, May 21 at noon in "The Gulch" (the parking lot next to Philips Arena). By Friday afternoon 171 people had committed to attending the rally.