The worst nightmare of Winnipeg Jets fans appears to be happing once again; and this time, it’s even less deserved than it was 20 years ago. Thanks to a previously unheard of clause in True North Sports and Entertainment’s purchase of the team in 2011, Atlanta Hawks LLC (formerly Spirit Group) will reclaim ownership and move the team back in time for the 2017/18 season
According to JetsNation’s well-placed source within the National Hockey League, the clause was initially placed in the sale to protect the league’s interest in the event that the Jets became a financial risk. The clause gave Hawks LLC the option to purchase the team back in the event that the Canadian dollar dipped below $0.80 USD at the start of the NHL’s Fiscal Year 2016. TNSE reluctantly allowed the clause to be added in an effort to accelerate the sale, being well aware of the unlikeliness of the Dollar dropping 23 cents (from $1.02 on June 1st, 2011) in such a short time span.
Today is the first day of Fiscal Year 2016, and the dollar is at just under 77 cents, allowing the process to begin. It took mere minutes for both the NHL and Hawks LLC to trigger it.
While the NHL is perfectly fine with the Jets’ solvency (Forbes estimated them at $10.9 million US in net income in 2015), they still believe in Atlanta as a potential TV market and believe that they could be a key rival for a Las Vegas expansion team. Hawks LLC, however, has struggled to rent out Philips Arena for the home game dates that the Thrashers left behind.
Hawks LLC has spent the past 24 months doing market research throughout Georgia and believe that there is sufficient interest in the return of the team. They also feel that they are better prepared to run the team on a more reasonable budget and that the team is closer than ever to being successful. Hawks LLC believes that the club could pull off a scenario similar to the Colorado Avalanche, where the team rapidly becomes successful following a move. Believing that winning will attract fans, the group has, even more reason to pull the trigger on the decision.
The Atlanta-based group will, just like True North before them, pay $170 million for the team. TNSE will see $110 million while $60 million will go to the NHL as a relocation fee. Interestingly enough, True North comes out ahead due to the dollar’s fluctuation, and are set to take in approximately $30 million more than they paid.
This shocking turn of events perhaps explains why the organization brought back the Manitoba Moose at the beginning of this year, as they looked to get a head start on keeping hockey in the city in the event of a doomsday scenario.
Unsurprisingly, it is expected that True North will appeal the decision as an act of bad faith. Expect a public statement from the club tomorrow in that regard. If they fail, though, at least these April games won’t be the only ones left to see the Jets in town; fans will have an entire year to let the league know what kind of fools they are for allowing this outcome.