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“Our spirit is back!” said Winnipeg’s Braden Hill, decked out in a Jets jersey and hockey helmet, a Canadian flag draped on his back. “Our city lost it 15 years ago. Now it’s back.”

Meanwhile, the Thrashers‘ training complex in suburban Duluth was locked up and no one answered the door. Many employees were undoubtedly freshening up their resumes, knowing they won’t be going with the team to Winnipeg.

Next door, a half-dozen customers ate lunch at the Breakaway Grill, which overlooks the rink where the team practiced and plans to remain open.

“Luckily we’re named the Breakaway Grill. We’re not named the Thrashers Nest or anything like that,” said Rhashida Chandler, who works as a bartender and server. “It’ll be an adjustment. We’ll be here for lunches. We’re lucky we have a strong youth hockey program and a men’s league program that keeps us here usually ‘til 2 a.m.”

She said the economic crisis and years of losing made it difficult for the franchise to succeed in a city that has three other major-league franchises, two minor-league teams and a strong tradition in college sports that revolves around Georgia and Georgia Tech.

“I just wish they could’ve been more successful as a team,” Chandler said.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed tried to drum up support for the team in the business community, but acknowledged last week that a move was inevitable.

“Along with thousands of loyal fans, I was disappointed to learn today that the Atlanta Thrashers are leaving the city and relocating to Winnipeg,” Reed said. “As they move forward, I wish them continued success.”

The mood was much different in Winnipeg, of course. The new ownership group, which includes Canadian billionaire David Thomson, began a dogged pursuit for another NHL team when it became clear both the Coyotes and the Thrashers were in serious financial trouble.

The Coyotes are now owned by the league and likely would have returned to Winnipeg if suburban Glendale had not agreed to provide a $25 million subsidy for this year, then approved another for the 2011-12 season while the team tries to finalize an agreement with a prospective new owner.

In Atlanta, where the financially strapped city government is dealing with possible layoffs, there was never any consideration of bailing out the hockey team.

Bettman said the league didn’t want to leave Atlanta, a metro area with more than 5 million people and a more favorable TV market than Winnipeg, a city of less than 700,000. But, he added, there was no other option.

The deal was finalized early Tuesday.

“We don’t like to move a franchise,” Bettman said. “We’re not happy about leaving Atlanta. This was never about whether Winnipeg is better than Atlanta. The decision to come to Winnipeg was only made after the Atlanta ownership made the decision they were going to sell even if it meant the club was going to leave Atlanta.”

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

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