Hot off the success of a season-ticket campaign, it did not take long for Winnipeg's new NHL team to conduct its first firing.
Rick Dudley, the general manager of the Atlanta Thrashers when they were sold to True North Sports and Entertainment, Ltd., last week, was told on the weekend he is not welcome in Winnipeg. While head coach Craig Ramsay remains in limbo pending a meeting this week with True North chairman Mark Chipman and his hockey adviser, Craig Heisinger, he is also expected to be fired.
"After meeting with Rick Dudley this week, we have decided to go in another direction with the position of general manager of our team," Chipman said in a statement released Sunday. "We informed Rick of our decision late [Saturday]afternoon, and thanked him for his work in building a foundation and future for this team. We will have no further comment on any personnel matters at this time."
Dudley succeeded Don Waddell as Thrashers GM on April 14, 2010, and was credited with quickly turning the team into a contender although a second-half fade cost them a spot in this year's playoffs. He did not respond to a request for comment.
According to a report Sunday, Chicago Blackhawks assistant general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has been offered the job. Both Chipman and Heisinger know Cheveldayoff from his 12 years as GM of the AHL's Chicago Wolves.
If Ramsay is also shown the door, the front-runner to be head coach is Claude Noel. He just finished his first season as head coach of the Manitoba Moose and for three years before that was an assistant coach with the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets under former head coach Ken Hitchcock.
"They said we'll meet [this]week and that is how they left it," Ramsay said Sunday. "I have no other information."
What isn't clear is who will be on the hook for Dudley's and Ramsay's contracts. Dudley has four years left on his deal while Ramsay has one. Reports have said True North worked out a deal with Atlanta Spirit, LLC, the former owner of the Thrashers, that Atlanta Spirit would be responsible for paying Dudley and Ramsay if they were not retained by the new owners.
However, this was not confirmed by True North and Ramsay said Sunday he does not know who is responsible for his contract.
Technically, Waddell, who was president of the Thrashers at the time of the sale, could be considered True North's first firing. However, it was understood from the start of the sale negotiations Waddell was unlikely to come north with the team.
It took True North just 17 minutes after the season tickets became available to the public at noon Saturday to hit its goal of 13,000 for the 15,000-seat MTS Centre. The team sold 7,158 tickets to the 2,000 people who held various ticket packages with the Moose over the first three days of the campaign and the rest were quickly snapped up by the public on Saturday. All of the tickets come with three-to-five-year commitments.
"While I had no doubt the 'Drive to 13,000' would reach its destination, the remarkable speed at which it got there certifies the fans' hunger for NHL hockey and their commitment to True North's initiatives," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.