True North Sports and Entertainment Limited (TNSE) is a Winnipeg, Manitoba based company that owns and operates the MTS Centre in downtown Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Jets of the National Hockey League. The company also owns the Jets' minor league affiliate, the St. John's IceCaps of the American Hockey League (formerly the Manitoba Moose). Aside from hockey, TNSE is also active in bringing high-profile concerts and shows to Winnipeg.
TNSE was founded in 2001 by Manitoba Moose co-owner Mark Chipman and several local investors. Their goal was to build a new entertainment and sports venue in downtown Winnipeg to help revive the city's downtown area and possibly one day bring an NHL franchise back to Winnipeg. The original Winnipeg Jets played in the city from 1972 to 1996 before relocating to Phoenix, Arizona. Ownership of the Moose was transferred to TNSE in 2003.
The 15,004-seat MTS Centre was completed in fall 2004 and became the new home of the Moose, replacing the Winnipeg Arena. The arena was built at a cost of $133.5 million on land acquired from Osmington Incorporated, a real estate firm owned by Toronto billionaire David Thomson. In exchange for the land, Osmington took a minority share in TNSE. Since its opening, the new arena has also hosted numerous concerts and other non-hockey events, and become one of the busiest entertainment venues in North America.
Chipman and Thomson (through Osmington) gradually bought out TNSE's other shareholders to gain sole ownership of the company. Chipman's shares are held through his family's holding company, Megill-Stephenson Co., of which he is president. Megill-Stephenson also owns the Birchwood Automotive Group in Winnipeg.
In summer 2010, TNSE opened the MTS Iceplex, an arena and training complex located on the western edge of Winnipeg, just north of the Birchwood dealerships. The Iceplex features four ice surfaces and is used by several amateur teams, local minor hockey, and recreational leagues. The Jets also use it as their training and practice facility. The Iceplex has also hosted major events, such as the 2011 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
In May 2011, TNSE purchased the Atlanta Thrashers and relocated the team to Winnipeg, subsequently renaming them the Winnipeg Jets. As a result, TNSE relocated the Moose to St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador for the 2011-12 season, renaming them the St. John's IceCaps. The IceCaps are the top minor league affiliate of the Jets. However, in 2015, the IceCaps would return to Winnipeg, reviving the Manitoba Moose moniker and sharing the MTS Centre with their parent club.
Bringing the NHL back to Winnipeg
In January 2007, Chipman was invited to meet NHL executives, including commissioner Gary Bettman, in New York to make a presentation about bringing an NHL team to Winnipeg, either through expansion or relocation. TNSE wasn't alone—the NHL also met with interested parties from Houston, Kansas City, Seattle, and Las Vegas--but were most impressed by the presentation by the Winnipeg group.
In 2009, Bettman approached Chipman about the possibility of taking over the struggling Phoenix Coyotes. The Coyotes were on the verge of declaring bankruptcy and were purchased by the league out of bankruptcy court later that year. In October, Chipman made a second presentation to the league about relocating a team to Winnipeg.
The Coyotes ownership issue remained unresolved in May 2010. As the league was not prepared to cover the team's losses for another season, the league executive reached a tentative agreement to sell the Coyotes to TNSE, allowing them to relocate the franchise back to Winnipeg. This was intended as a back-up plan, as the league's first choice was to keep the team in Arizona. With no other investors in place, the league asked the City of Glendale to cover the Coyotes losses for the 2010-11 season. Facing a tight deadline, city council voted in favor of the deal rather than risk losing the primary tenant of their arena. According to Chipman, TNSE came "within ten minutes of acquiring (the Coyotes)".
After a failed bid to sell the team to Matthew Hulziser, the NHL and TNSE resumed their negotiations in spring of 2011. Glendale city council decided to cover the teams losses for another year, so TNSE shifted their focus on another opportunity—to acquire the Atlanta Thrashers from the Atlanta Spirit group. On the morning of May 31, 2011, the sale was finalized and announced at a press conference held at the MTS Centre. The sale and relocation of the team to Winnipeg was approved by the NHL Board of Governors on June 21. Mark Chipman confirmed that the team would be known as the Jets at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft on June 24. The Jets played their inaugural game on October 9, 2011 in front of a sold-out crowd at the MTS Centre, losing 5-1 to the Montreal Canadiens.
- "Winnipeg Jets deal: the investors who made it happen", CBC.ca, 2011-05-31. Retrieved on 2011-06-09.
- "Chipman's plight to return the NHL to Winnipeg", Rogers Sportsnet, 2011-05-31. Retrieved on 2011-06-09.
- "MTS Centre: Quick Facts", www.mtscentre.ca. Retrieved on 2011-06-09.
- "Thomson not rich because he's stupid", Winnipeg Free Press, 2011-05-21. Retrieved on 2011-06-14.
- "New owner Thomson cares about hockey", Winnipeg Sun, 2011-05-31. Retrieved on 2011-06-14.
- "Mooseplex renamed MTS Iceplex", CBC.ca, 2010-04-09. Retrieved on 2011-01-05. Archived from the original on 2010-04-12.
- "AHL APPROVES MOVE OF MANITOBA MOOSE TO ST. JOHN'S, NL". Retrieved on 2011-06-10.
- "True North buys Thrashers, set to move them to Winnipeg", The Sports Network, 2011-05-31. Retrieved on 2011-06-01.
- "Winnipeg came within 10 minutes of getting the Coyotes", Winnipeg Free Press, 2011-06-17. Retrieved on 2011-06-18.
- "Peg still on NHL's map", Winnipeg Free Press, 2009-05-17. Retrieved on 2011-06-18.
- "Anatomy of an NHL deal", Toronto Sun, 2011-06-01. Retrieved on 2011-06-18.
- "NHL board of governors confirms Winnipeg team", Winnipeg Free Press, 2011-06-21. Retrieved on 2011-06-21.
- "NUGENT-HOPKINS GOES FIRST, JETS TAKE SCHEIFELE IN NHL DRAFT", TSN.ca, 2011-06-25. Retrieved on 2011-06-24.
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