NHL board approves Thrashers’ move to Winnipeg

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In other news from Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved two amendments to rules regarding player safety. The year-old Rule 48 will now apply to all hits that target the head of an opponent, and not only those from the blindside. Also, boarding infractions will be treated more severely. Players must let up on hits into the boards that might not necessarily be violent, but are deemed dangerous _ including pushes.

Bettman said that next year’s salary-cap figure still needs to be finalized with the players’ union, but it is expected to rise from $59.4 million to about $63 million or $64 million. It has increased every year since its inception of $39 million after the 2004-05 lockout.

The Thrashers made the playoffs in 2007, but were swept in four games by the New York Rangers. Atlanta had only one season in which it won more games than it lost. Now the Thrashers will be a footnote in hockey history.

Although the Winnipeg franchise has yet to pick a name, it will not be the Thrashers. The club will bear no resemblance to the one that briefly called Atlanta home.

Waddell, general manager Rick Dudley and coach Craig Ramsay won’t make the move to Manitoba. Dudley completed just one year of a four-year deal after he replaced Waddell, and Ramsay was one year into a two-year contract.

The Thrashers‘ ownership dealt with major financial problems and declining attendance in recent years. The team had the league’s third-worst attendance last season, averaging fewer than 14,000 a game.

“They certainly made every effort they possibly could to have it work. It didn’t work,” New Jersey Devils president Lou Lamoriello said. “Winnipeg is excited, the league is excited right now. What they have been able to do there in a short period of time is just tremendous.”

Winnipeg had set its sights on the troubled Phoenix Coyotes, hoping to bring back the former Jets, but that team was saved last month for at least another season in the desert after the city of Glendale, Ariz. _ where the club’s arena is located _ voted to subsidize the team as it seeks a new owner.

Canadian billionaire David Thomson, who heads the Winnipeg ownership group along with Mark Chipman, went hard after an NHL team when the Coyotes and the Thrashers fell into serious financial trouble.

The Coyotes are owned by the NHL and likely would have returned to Winnipeg if Glendale hadn’t agreed to provide a $25 million subsidy for this year, then approved another for the 2011-12 season while the team tries to complete an agreement with a prospective new owner.

That kind of deal was never an option for Atlanta.

“People are pretty excited about putting a team back in Winnipeg,” Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke said. “There are some challenges in the market, but I think everyone is pretty comfortable that everyone can and will meet those challenges.

“It’s nice to have Winnipeg back in the big show. It’s not a slam dunk. Everyone in Winnipeg has to support this team.”

Thrashers co-owner Michael Gearon and the rest of the Atlanta Spirit group came under heavy criticism for the way they ran the team, especially when it was revealed in court documents they were looking to sell the club almost as soon as they acquired it in 2004.

Gearon said they have lost $130 million since taking over the franchise _ including $20 million in 2006-07, the year the Thrashers won the Southeast Division and made the playoffs.

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