According to a report from the Globe and Mail's Stephen Brunt on May 19th, the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers are moving to Winnipeg. Brunt claimed the deal was finalized, but numerous sources have said the deal is not official and no announcement has been made.
The Thrashers have also suffered from bad ownership. The Atlanta Spirit Group bought both the Thrashers and the Atlanta Hawks, the city's NBA team, in 2004. After a proposed Hawks trade in 2005 was approved by the majority of the group but blocked by Scott Belkin's controlling vote, the rest of the board tried to oust Belkin. This led to a lengthy court battle, which ended on December 23, 2010 with Belkin's share being bought out.
Many, if not all, Thrashers fans are fed up by ASG's incompetence. There is also the belief that the group cares far more about the Hawks; the Thrashers were almost a throw-in in the 2004 deal. Exemplary of ASG's callous behavior is the "Select-a-Seat" event that ASG held last Saturday. Thrashers season ticket holders were allowed to choose their seats for the upcoming season. Of course, it's unlikely those fans will ever sit in the seats they chose, but it's more money for ASG, and that's really what counts in this case.
The Jets were hit hard by monetary exchange rates. When the Jets left in 1996, one Canadian dollar was worth 1.3519 American dollars. Player salaries were paid in American dollars, and the franchise could not keep up; Winnipeg became the smallest market in the league after the Quebec Nordiques moved to Denver.
Winnipeg is viable once again because the Canadian dollar is now more valuable than the American dollar. The city has also has the MTS Centre, an NHL-ready arena opened in 2004 and owned by True North. It holds only 15,015 spectators, but if full that number would be higher than the average attendance of eight current teams, including the Thrashers. Considering the rabid Canadian fanbase, the MTS Centre would likely sell out most nights.
In fairness, both cities have faced difficult circumstances. There are fans in Atlanta. I feel terrible for them. They've been mistreated and jerked around by ASG. With a different owner, the team might have succeeded in Atlanta. But right now, a move to Winnipeg is the right thing, and possibly the only thing. As long as the Canadian dollar stays strong, which is essential for the franchise to have any success in Winnipeg, the team will be secure. The current team is young, and has a bright future. Right now, that future looks to be in Winnipeg.
Update: This report suggests the Thrashers could move as early as tomorrow, Tuesday, May 31st.