Hnidy/By S. Bradley

VANCOUVER — Where Shane Hnidy grew up, Winnipeg — two hours away — was the “big city.”

And now Winnipeg is going to be a big city with an NHL team again.

Yesterday the NHL announced the move of the Atlanta Thrashers, a team Hnidy once played for, to Winnipeg for the start of next season.

“I did play in Atlanta and I had a great time there, it’s a great city, great people,” said Hnidy yesterday during media day at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, where the Bruins will meet Vancouver tonight in Game 1 at Rogers Arena.

“But at the same time, in Winnipeg you’re going to have a full house. You’re going to have that hockey atmosphere, the excitement. I just think it’s a great hockey atmosphere and that’s what it’s all about.”

Hnidy said he thinks free agents won’t be scared away by the cold because of the hockey atmosphere. He might be among the free agents willing to go there this summer, but right now he’s focused on possibly winning a ring with the Bruins.

As far as Atlanta, Hnidy sort of knew all along the NHL wasn’t going to work there.

“To me, Winnipeg’s more of a hockey place. It’s a hockey market,” he said. “Atlanta, it’s not a great big sports city unless it’s college ball. You’re going to Winnipeg, hockey’s going to be the No. 1 show. I love the city, it’s been good to me and I look forward to an NHL club being there.”

Hnidy’s kids are looking forward to a team being closer to home too. And even if he doesn’t wind up playing for the Winnipeg/Manitoba franchise, he’ll at least get to play some road games where his family come easily get out to see him play.