The Jets were established as the Atlanta Thrashers on June 25, 1997, and became the League's 28th franchise when they began play in the 1999–2000 NHL season. True North Sports & Entertainment then bought the team in May 2011 and relocated the franchise from Atlanta to Winnipeg prior to the 2011–12 season (the first NHL franchise to relocate since the Hartford Whalers became the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997). The team was renamed the Jets after Winnipeg's original WHA/NHL team, which relocated after the 1995–96 season to become the Phoenix Coyotes.
On May 20, 2011, the Winnipeg Sun confirmed that an agreement in principle had been reached for True North to purchase the Thrashers, while Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz announced that he was confident that the Thrashers' relocation to Winnipeg would soon be officially announced. On May 31, 2011, at a press conference at the MTS Centre, Bettman confirmed that the Atlanta Thrashers had been sold to True North and would relocate to Winnipeg for the 2011–12 season, pending the approval of the sale and relocation by the NHL's Board of Governors, which came at their June 21, 2011, meeting. The reported purchase price was $170 million, with $60 million going to the NHL as a relocation fee. After the announcement, True North made preparations to move the Moose franchise to St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Season ticket sales began June 1, 2011, with Manitoba Moose season ticket holders having priority. The team sought to sell 13,000 season tickets in an effort to prove its viability. Within the first three and a half hours, the new franchise sold 1,870 packages to Moose season ticket holders. Season tickets opened to the general public on June 4 and sold out in 17 minutes. Once the "Drive to 13,000" was completed, True North started a season ticket waiting list, which was shut down after 8,000 people signed up in two hours. In July 2011, tickets for October 9 home opener against the Montreal Canadiens were listed for an average price of $1,711 on StubHub, with an average selling price of $713.
True North said the team's name would not be announced until after the successful completion of the season ticket drive at the earliest. The team was not to be named the Thrashers, since True North did not acquire the name in the transaction, and the rights to that name and the Thrashers logo were retained by the ownership group in Atlanta.
There was considerable support in Winnipeg to reuse "Winnipeg Jets", the name of the city's original WHA and NHL franchise, though rumours spread that True North preferred "Manitoba Moose". "Whiteout" and "Falcons" were also considered, but the latter was quickly rejected in deference to Atlanta, which has another professional sports team by that name. True North kept their selection secret until the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minnesota, on June 24, when Chipman introduced General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff to "make our first pick, on behalf of the Winnipeg Jets."
Before the franchise relocation was officially completed, True North bought out the remaining years of General Manager Rick Dudley's contract on June 4, 2011. Thrashers President Don Waddell, who had been with the franchise since its inception, had earlier announced he would not be moving with the team. Kevin Cheveldayoff, a former GM of the Chicago Wolves and former assistant GM of the Chicago Blackhawks, was hired to replace Dudley four days later. The team also retained Marcel Comeau, the director of amateur scouting. On June 12, 2011, Cheveldayoff had Thrashers Head Coach Craig Ramsay reinterview for his position, then formally dismissed him as head coach eight days later. Claude Noel, who had been the head coach of the Manitoba Moose, was named head coach four days later; the other finalist for the job had been Chicago Blackhawks Assistant Coach Mike Haviland. Charlie Huddy, Pascal Vincent and Wade Flaherty, formerly of the Dallas Stars and Blackhawks, were named Noel's assistant coaches.