After the departure of the IHL’s Atlanta Knights 1992 to 1996 to become the Quebec Rafales, the city was awarded an NHL franchise on June 25, 1997, as part of a four-team tiered expansion. This also included teams in Nashville, Columbus and St. Paul, in which each new franchise would begin play as its respective new arena was completed. The birth of the new franchise marked NHL hockey’s return to Georgia, as the Atlanta Flames, established in 1972, departed for Canada in 1980 to become the Calgary Flames.
On September 21, 2003, Time Warner, the owners of both the Thrashers and the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, sold both teams to Atlanta Spirit, LLC, a group consisting of businessmen based both in Atlanta and elsewhere.
Due to financial losses and ownership struggles, the team was frequently a target of relocation rumors. In later years, reports saw the team courted by suitors intending to relocate to Kansas City, Missouri; Quebec City, Quebec; Hamilton, Ontario or Winnipeg, Manitoba. On January 22, 2011, the team’s ownership group claimed it had lost US $130 million in the last six years, partially as a result of an ongoing lawsuit with former partner Steve Belkin. In February 2011, majority owner Michael Gearon stated that the team would be seeking new investors. Various local groups announced their intent to purchase the franchise and keep it in Atlanta, but ultimately the team was sold to the Canadian group True North Sports & Entertainment.
The Jets began play as the Atlanta Thrashers in the 1999 – 2000 NHL season. True North Sports & Entertainment then bought the team in May 2011 and relocated the franchise from Atlanta, Georgia to Winnipeg prior to the 2011 – 2012 season (the first NHL franchise to relocate since the Hartford Whalers became the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997). The team was renamed the Jets after Winnipeg’s original WHA/NHL team, which relocated after the 1995 – 1996 season to become what is now known as the Arizona Coyotes.
Atlanta – Winnipeg
1999 – Present / National Hockey League
2011 – Present / Winnipeg Jets
1999 – 2011 / Atlanta Thrashers
Thrashers – Originally part of Turner Broadcasting, and owner Ted Turner christened his 1997 expansion team after the state bird of Georgia, the brown thrasher part of the mockingbird family, called the Atlanta Thrashers.
Stanley Cup 0
2018 – Present / Bell MTS Place
2011 – 2017 / MTS Centre
1999 – 2011 / Philips Arena
2011 – Present / True North Sports and Entertainment
2003 – 2011 / Atlanta Spirit, LLC
1999 – 2003 / Time Warner
99 Wayne Gretzky
*Blue is this team’s history