WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Winnipeg's mayor says it's just "a matter of time" before a deal to move the Atlanta Thrashers to his city is finalized and announced.
Mayor Sam Katz says Friday the deal to bring an NHL team back to Winnipeg is going to happen, though nothing is signed and sealed yet.
Katz says he's been in touch with Winnipeg's True North Sports and Entertainment, the company negotiating the sale, and has been told there is nothing official — yet.
True North Sports and Entertainment has been negotiating with Thrashers ownership about moving the team north of the border. Despite a report Thursday night that a deal is done, both the NHL and True North have said nothing has been decided.
"I do believe this will happen and it's long overdue," Katz said. "The Jets never should have left here. . . . After 15 years, we'll all be ecstatic to have them back. There is no doubt that the fan base is there. The corporate support is there."
The Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix in 1996. Since then, Winnipeg has built a new arena — the 15,500-seat MTS Centre — and has argued it can support an NHL franchise once again.
"I think Tuesday could be an interesting day," said Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger told reporters. "I think we should all keep our powder dry and see how it goes. But the reality is that until the deal is done, nobody is making any comments. We've always taken a prudent approach on this and anything that is finalized, you'll be among the first to know."
There has been criticism that the arena isn't big enough for the NHL; the AHL's Manitoba Moose is the current pro hockey tenant. Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk, considered one of the greatest Jets players, doesn't agree.
"People think it's small, but I think it's great," said Hawerchuk. "To me, you should be sold out, you should have a waiting list for season tickets and you've created a demand."
Former Jets defenseman Dave Manson said he " couldn't be happier for the city of Winnipeg."
"I was actually part of the move with the Jets to Phoenix and I felt very sorry for Winnipeg," Manson added. "I was fortunate to play in a few Canadian cities and it was tough being a part of that, to watch a team move from Canada to the States."
Now, one could be moving the other way.