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The Atlanta Thrashers Ownership Saga: Organizations, People and Reporters

The Atlanta Thrashers ownership saga has been going on for several years now and has certainly been complex, frustrating, and at times, mysterious (ie. The Balkan). Last week, it was reported in The Globe and Mail newspaper that the saga may soon be over as a deal in principle has been reached to bring The Atlanta Thrashers and The NHL to Winnipeg. Similar to what we did for Drama in The Desert- The Phoenix Coyotes Ownership Saga– Illegal Curve has compiled a comprehensive list of the organizations, people and reporters that have been involved in the Drama in Dixie.


Atlanta Spirit Group, LLC – The Atlanta Spirit LLC is a company that owns the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers and the arena in which they both play in, Philips Arena. The group is currently composed of seven partners, led by Bruce Levenson and Michael Gearon Jr.

True North Sports & Entertainment Ltd. – owns the Manitoba Moose of the AHL and the 15,000+-seat MTS Centre.  True North Sports & Entertainment is led by Chairman Mark Chipman, who has always wanted to bring the NHL back to the great city of Winnipeg. David Thomson, one of the richest men in the world, and owner of The Globe and Mail newspaper, is a silent partner in True North.

National Hockey League– The top professional hockey league in the world, founded in 1917 and currently composed of 30 member clubs.

Atlanta Thrashers–  One of 30 teams currently playing in NHL, an expansion franchise which joined the National Hockey League in 1999.  The City of Atlanta previously had another NHL franchise, The Atlanta Flames, from 1972 to 1980, but that team relocated to Calgary, Alberta, Canada and is now called The Calgary Flames.

Winnipeg Jets- A team that played in The National Hockey League from 1979 to 1996 and in The World Hockey Association from 1972 to 1979. The Jets left Winnipeg in 1996 for Phoenix, Arizona after the city could no longer support NHL Hockey.  With a modern arena, improved economy and dedicated local fan base, the City of Winnipeg has been ready for an opportunity to get an NHL team back for many years now.


Bruce Levenson – A partner in Atlanta Spirit LLC, which owns The NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers, The NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and The Phillips Arena. Levenson has been the face and the most vocal member of The Atlanta Spirit Group during the entire ownership saga. Levenson tried to sell The Thrashers to someone interested in keeping the team in Atlanta but was ultimately unsuccessful.

Steve Belkin- a former partner in Atlanta Spirit who was bought out and was involved in years of litigation after he sued the other partners because he thought he didn’t receive fair value for his ownership stake.

Gary Bettman – Commissioner of the National Hockey League.  Mr. Bettman has been less concerned with trying to keep The Thrashers in Atlanta as he was with helping to keep the Coyotes in the Glendale.  It has been pretty clear over the past year that Atlanta Spirit LLC wants out of the NHL and Bettman seems to be okay with that.

Bill Daly – Deputy Commissioner of the National Hockey League and Gary Bettman’s right hand man in New York.  Daly appeared on The Illegal Curve Hockey Show in November, 2010 and said that if Atlanta Spirit LLC could not find a local owner, moving the team could be a possibility.

Kasim Reed – Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia who has certainly not been as vocal about wanting to keep an NHL team in his city as Mayor Elaine Scruggs was about keeping The Coyotes in Glendale, Arizona.

Tom Glavine – A two-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher who played most of his career with the Atlanta Braves.  Glavine, a big hockey fan, was briefly rumoured to be part of an ownership group interested in keeping The Thrashers in Atlanta but he later admitted that he was having trouble getting enough investors together who were interested in submitting a serious bid.

Lil’ Jon – Rapper who hails from A-Town, as he affectionately calls it. Another person who was rumoured to be interested in being part of an ownership group to keep The Thrashers in Atlanta. Lil’ Jon is a huge fan of hockey and crunk juice (see picture below). Yaaayuh!
wpid liljon

“The Balkan”- a nickname created by John Kincade, an Atlanta radio personality. Kincade said that a local investor, who he he could only refer to as “The Balkan” was interested in buying The Atlanta Thrashers and keeping them in Atlanta. It was later revealed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that “The Balkan” was someone named J.B. Smith, a Detroit venture capitalist.

Mark Chipman – Governor of the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League and Chairman of the Board for True North Sports & Entertainment.  Chipman brought the Moose (at the time part of The International Hockey League) to Winnipeg in 1996 after the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets left for Phoenix.  Chipman was the driving force behind the MTS Centre project, the city’s 15,000+ seat sports and entertainment facility which is the current home of the Manitoba Moose.

David Thomson – Chairman of Thomson Reuters, who is estimated to be the 19th richest person in the world (approximate family net worth of $19 billion dollars).  Thomson is a silent partner in True North Sports & Entertainment.


Stephen Brunt– Globe & Mail Sports columnist who broke the news on May 19, 2011 that a deal was done between True North Sports & Entertainment and Atlanta Spirit LLC to bring NHL hockey back to Winnipeg after a 15-year absence.

David Shoalts – Globe & Mail reporter who has covered both The Phoenix Coyotes and Atlanta Thrashers ownership stories.

Gary Lawless – Columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press who appears to get to the breaking news about this story quicker than most.

Pierre LeBrun – NHL columnist and CBC ‘Hot Stove’ regular who usually has the goods from the NHL.

Scott Burnside – NHL columnist.

Tim Campbell– Winnipeg Free Press sports reporter who covers the Manitoba Moose. Campbell was the beat writer for The Winnipeg Free Press when The NHL’s Winnipeg Jets were in the city.

Chris Vivlamore– Reporter for the Atlanta Journal Constitution who has covered the Atlanta Thrashers ownership situation on the ground in Glendale. Vivlamore broke the official news that True North Sports & Entertainment was negotiating with Atlanta Spirit LLC to buy the team and possibly relocate it to Winnipeg.

John Kincade- Radio Show host for WCNN 680 in Atlanta, Georgia. Kincade hosts “The Buck and Kincade Show”.

IC Radio on Sportsradio 1290 – Rich, Drew, Ez & Michael have been bringing all the latest info, every Saturday morning from 9 am to 12 pm cst.
“Deal will close in two weeks” – This positive expression of hope has been uttered countless times over the past few years as every bit of news leads someone to inevitably say that the deal should be done “within two weeks”.

Jets-O-Meter – Is a creation of Darren Ford, later modified and used by TSN, which when it goes up or down a few points, is liable to send 1/2 of Winnipeg into a frenzy.

And that in a nut shell are some of the people, organizations and reporters that have been used while the drama in the dixie has unfolded.
If you feel that something has been left off the above list, feel free to send us a tweet@illegalcurve, email us or leave us a comment.