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Thrashers fans rally to keep the NHL team in Atlanta (Getty Images / By Kevin C. Cox)

It’s official. As expected, the Atlanta Thrashers are packing their bags and moving to Winnipeg, Canada.

True North Sports and Entertainment, the Canadian group that has been negotiating to buy the NHL hockey team since mid-May, made the announcement at a news conference today in Winnipeg, reports the AJC.com.

The Thrashers began play as an expansion team in 1999 in then-new Philips Arena. The team also had the most diverse lineup in the NHL, but the team also lost millions of dollars every year and struggled to fill seats in Phillips despite having a noticeable contingent of passionate fans.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters that he regretted seeing Atlanta lose its second NHL franchise. The Flames left Atlanta for Calgary in 1980.

The agreement must now be approved by the NHL Board of Governors, which is scheduled to meet on June 21. A 75-percent vote is required to ratify a change of ownership and a 50-percent vote is required to approve a franchise relocation.

Atlanta Spirit — which owns the Thrashers and Hawks — has been trying to sell the Thrashers for years. The company claims that they tried to keep the team in Atlanta but failed to find a buyer willing to keep the team in Atlanta.

Read the full story at the AJC.com.

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