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Atlanta gets 2005 NHL All Star Game

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Atlanta set to get 2005 NHL All-Stars


Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer

The NHL plans to award its 2005 All-Star Game to Atlanta shortly after the sale of the Thrashers is completed, four people familiar with the situation said Thursday.

The game, which would be played at Philips Arena in early February 2005, would mark the third major-league All-Star Game in Atlanta in a five-year period, all seduced by the city's relatively new sports venues.

The Major League Baseball All-Star Game was played at Turner Field in 2000 and the NBA All-Star Game at Philips Arena last year.

One potential problem with next year's hockey All-Star Game could be the league's uncertain labor situation.

The NHL's collective bargaining agreement expires before next season, and a season-threatening lockout has been widely predicted if the players' union refuses to accept some sort of salary restraint.

If a labor dispute were to result in the cancellation of the All-Star game, Atlanta is expected to get the 2008 game as a makeup.

The Thrashers and Hawks began pursuing NBA and NHL All-Star games as soon as the arena was built.

The bid for the 2005 game -- submitted before Time Warner reached an agreement in September to sell the Thrashers, Hawks and Philips Arena operating rights -- was made jointly by the Atlanta Sports Council, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, the hockey team and arena.

The teams' buyers, a group of nine investors based in Atlanta, Washington and Boston, continue to negotiate legal terms with the NHL and NBA, both of which must approve the transaction before it can close. The buyers say they hope the deal will be approved by the end of the month.

There has been no discussion of a contingency plan for the All-Star Game if the sale were to fall through.

This season's NHL All-Star Game will be played in St. Paul, Minn., on Feb. 8. The 2005 game would be the third played in the Southeast. The game was played in Sunrise, Fla., last year and in Tampa in 1999.

Hockey's All-Star game culminates a weekend of events that includes a "young stars" game, a skills competition, clinics, open practices and a fan festival.

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Does anybody in Atlanta play hockey in organized leagues? Are the fans northern transplants? Do people in Georgia and the south have an interest in hockey?

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