1 Jun 2011

Thrashers heading north

1:26 pm on 1 June 2011

Canada has reclaimed one of its lost NHL ice hockey franchises when the Atlanta Thrashers were sold to a Canadian group and relocated to Winnipeg, triggering wild celebrations in the Prairie city.

The announcement ended an agonizing wait for Winnipeg hockey fans as rumors of the sale dragged on for weeks before True North, led by partners Mark Chipman and billionaire David Thomson, were finally confirmed as the new owners.

Thomson is Canada's richest man and chairman of news and information company Thomson Reuters , while Chipman's family owns auto dealerships and real estate in the Western Canadian province of Manitoba.

Winnipeg was home to the Winnipeg Jets of the World Hockey Association before the team joined the NHL in 1979.

The Jets played for 17 years in the NHL before moving to Phoenix, Arizona, in 1996 because of financial losses related to an outdated arena, spiraling NHL salaries and a weak Canadian dollar.

The Thrashers debuted during the 1999-2000 season at a time when Atlanta was booming. But attendance dwindled, financial losses mounted and the team was hampered by ownership problems.