No comment from NHL commissioner on Atlanta Spirit lawsuit

RALEIGH — NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman refused to comment on the current litigation involving the Atlanta Spirit, owners of the Thrashers, and any of the details contained in the lawsuit against an Atlanta law firm used in the buyout of a former partner.

Bettman would not comment on the attempts to sell the franchise, the loss of $50 million in value nor the $130 million in operating losses sustained since 2005 as claimed in a lawsuit filed against King & Spalding.

Speaking to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from the NHL All-Star Game, Bettman also said he would not speculate on what the disclosures meant for the future of the Thrashers.

“I will say the NHL has a long history of working to avoid franchise re-locations,” Bettman told the AJC.

The Spirit filed a $200 million malpractice lawsuit last Friday, saying the law firm’s negligence cost them millions of dollars and made them “unable to sell or otherwise dispose of the Atlanta Thrashers.”

The group also owns the NBA’s Hawks and operating rights to Philips Arena, but they are not mentioned in the lawsuit.

24 comments Add your comment

Tom Lysiak

January 28th, 2011
4:28 pm

Hopefully that history will continue as it relates to us. I pray the Commish has already started beating the bushes for someone to buy these clowns out.

Sage of Bluesland

January 28th, 2011
4:36 pm

I’m wondering when the next “town-hall meeting” will be? You know, where the sheep are revitalized after light refreshments and promises made by Don Waddell and any available owner who happens to be around…

This abomination of an organization and franchise is actually offensive to the intellect.

But, then again, it’s not my money which goes into their pockets–so that does indeed make me happy….One day you’ll feel that way, too; These clowns do not deserve it.


January 28th, 2011
4:41 pm

As much as I can’t stand Bettman for his incompetency in marketing the NHL properly, I will stand by him as he is a tough horse when it comes to keeping teams in their cities. Pittsburgh, Nashville, Phoenix, and potentially, Atlanta. I am confident the Thrashers will stay and hope the Spirit will be just that in the future. A Spirit. btw, I am so confident that I have the Thrashers permanently inked on my upper left arm.


January 28th, 2011
4:55 pm

I have my fingers crossed in hoping can maintain that history of avoiding relocating teams.

@Fockerman – opinions are always respected, but many in the sports management and marketing fields have actually applauded Bettman’s management team and their ability to increase visibility of NHL. Although the #4 or #5 sport in the United States, they are only second to the NFL in their innovation of marketing efforts. And they lead all major sports leagues in the social media and fan engagement functions of sports marketing.


January 28th, 2011
4:58 pm

I always thought it was “King and Spalding.”


January 28th, 2011
5:04 pm

Thanks Chris for asking these questions. Simply asking them reiterates the position of the suffering Thrasher fans against ASG. I especially like the fact that while he refused the answer those questions, he reiterated his commitment to prevent relocation of franchises, which is our biggest concern.

Joe Friday

January 28th, 2011
5:04 pm

“Bettman also said he would not speculate on what the disclosures meant for the future of the Thrashers.”

Houston, we have a problem here. He has been much more outspoken in the past about Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Phoenix. He just damned us with faint praise with the “history of working to avoid . . ” comment.

The handwriting is on the wall. They’ve been trying to sell the team locally for 6 years and like Daly said last month, there’s going to come a point where they have to consider other options. Pray, people, pray, ’cause this is starting to grow more and more ominous.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Illegal Curve Hockey, Nicolas-Étienne Côté, Nicolas-Étienne Côté, Phil Bonomo, Chris Vivlamore and others. Chris Vivlamore said: No comment from NHL commissioner on Atlanta Spirit lawsuit [...]


January 28th, 2011
5:13 pm

If you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything. That may sum up the Commish’s reaction to questions about the ASG. He knows how bad it is. What can you say that is positive about the ASG?
This week we learned the Philips is the 4th busiest arena in the U.S. You’d think that volume of business would make some money. But these goof balls plead poverty and are trying to use a lawsuit as a revenue stream.
It will be a great day when they no longer own the Thrashers.


January 28th, 2011
6:31 pm

Could it be, that the Atlanta Spirit, LLC kept Waddell in place, knowing it would strengthen their lawsuit, in terms of dollars lost, by an absence of playoff revenue? Oh my god. Please, tell me they’re not that WARPED. I always figured that ownership kept Waddell … because he minimized the amount of their loss, with league minimum payroll, while being UNABLE to successfully lure a quality GM to take his place. What did the Spirit have to offer a prospective GM??? They didn’t have robust budgets and promises of the pursuit of Championships to offer the interviewee. So, Waddell stayed.

And what about FORBES and their infamous “Best GM’s in Sports list,” that frequently contained Donald Waddell in their Top Five, in terms of dollars spent vs. results achieved. Remember when Forbes listed T’Wolves GM, Kevin McHale as their # 1 selection!!! Aye, Aye, Aye.


January 28th, 2011
7:05 pm



January 28th, 2011
7:27 pm

They probably spent all the money that they received from the “volume” of events on making the place “green.” They made such a huge deal about the LEED Certification, which is nice in it’s own way except for the fact that the rest of the building is falling apart.


January 28th, 2011
8:30 pm

NHL Commissioner declined to comment? What about the GBI Director?


January 28th, 2011
8:36 pm

The NHL has no business in the South. Please leave. Frankly my dear we don’t give a damn.

East Point Bob

January 28th, 2011
8:52 pm

Pro football has zero business here as well. I also think college sports are disgusting, most in the south. How is that “oldtimer”. You sound like an old fool who time has passed by.

Crazy Diamond

January 28th, 2011
9:23 pm

Maybe Bettman knows a bigger fool who wants to buy the Thrashers and keep them in Atlanta. Otherwise … we are so screwed.

g time

January 28th, 2011
9:50 pm

got some club seats for the Rangers games…if I see an asg owner the get cussed out


January 28th, 2011
10:04 pm

Bettman knows how bad the ownership situation is in Atlanta. He is not going to allow the team to be relocated. He kept the Coyotes in Phoenix. Noone would argue that Phoenix is a better/bigger market than Atlanta. Thrashers will be sold in 2011. Lets all hang in there and root them on to the playoffs.


January 29th, 2011
4:46 am

So just who is willing to buy a hockey franchise in Phoenix or Atlanta or some other cities, and spend hundreds of millions of their own money funding the losses? The supply of bigger fools has been exhausted. In future, teams that don’t pay their way will fall by the wayside.

Sorry to you fans in Atlanta, but if two teams in 40 years haven’t found success at the box office, they never will.

And please don’t let anyone convince your civic officials to fund the team like Glendale, Az. is. If you do, your cities will either be bankrupt or stuck with super-high taxes for years.

Ask Gary

January 29th, 2011
9:20 am


Can you let Gary know that there is no correlation between Braves, Hawks and Thrasher attendance.
If the Thrashers were a winning franchise with hockey loving owners minus, possibly, the worst former GM of all time that this could be one heck of an NHL market.

Ps the narrow minded goofs who blog anti hockey remarks need to burn the sheet

Iron League 13

January 29th, 2011
12:50 pm

Brendan, at this point nothing would surprise me about what the ASG would do. Maybe they want a bailout of sorts via the NHL (if possible even), I know they want a buyout, cuz they simply never wanted to own this team. They are full of BLEEEP.

So, far as Waddell is concerned, I wonder if he was truly as inept as we all believed. I gotta give him the benefit of the doubt at least to some degree. He never was in charge of the money, he’s gotta ask for what he can do with it like most mangement does in any business and I truly believe they said “no” to everything. Remember, we’ve NEVER signed any really good in-their-prime free agents in the offseason (always pre or post peak at best) and seldom retained anyone in their prime save Kovy (obvious why). They put all the money into basketball, I’m sure of it.

Iron League 13

January 29th, 2011
1:03 pm

Anonymous, I’m getting sick of saying the same thing, but feel compelled to. So much so that I may just start reading these things and not commenting, it’s tiresome.

I get what it looks like…BUT YOU’RE WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. A winning franchise = butts in seats and revenue. This town has done that with both an ECHL team and an IHL team that only left because their arena was being replaced by Philips and unfortunately this sad organization (I with they coulda WHA’d it into the NHL). We’ve got plenty (millions) of transplants of northern origins to carry this team, but they gotta win or they won’t shake their old allegiances and come out. Just like the Isles of the 80’s compared to themselves now or just like the post-Lemieux/pre-Crosby Pens.

It really is obvious how this thing successful NHL franchise thing works now or should be. Let’s not forget Quebec or Winnipeg ok? Quit picking on the obvious non-traditional teams of the sunbelt. Honestly how many people want to spend likely $50 (or way more even) on a single ticket to a game where they know their team is gonna lose? After 11 years of that it’s hard to shake, just like PHX is still turned off about all the scandal crap and mediocrity prior to last year.


January 29th, 2011
2:53 pm

AS much as I think Bettman has no clue and is dumber than a 5th grader. I have to say it does not make any business sense to comment on a lawsuit/litigation within your own organization. Hopefully this is another annoying display of how ASG doesn’t know what they are doing. Arthru Blank please come to the rescuw, I will by Falcons season tickets if you do. :)

Cant wait to see the Thrashers play on Calgary thursday, we have good success against them


January 29th, 2011
4:58 pm

Bettman is wise not to comment at this time. Perhaps, Bettman has known of the attempts of this ownership to sell the team. And if he did, he’s bound to silence, due to the present and former litigation. My $0.02 on this … is that Bettman does NOT regret putting a team in Atlanta. He regrets not scrutinizing its ownership incarnations more rigorously. Atlanta is an important U.S. market and would do well, if proper ownership were in place.

In truth, the Atlanta Thrashers franchise has not yet begun. And won’t until it has an ownership that is TRYING to win. Once such ownership is installed, we’ll see the results of that. Even if it doesn’t translate into Stanley Cups??? Yes. Fans aren’t stupid. They know when an owner is TRYING. Is Arthur Blank TRYING to win? Of course he is. He’s doing all he can. I totally applaud that, even after a ‘beat-down’ in the playoffs by the Packers. When Ted Turner owned the Braves, it was clear that he was TRYING to win. And, eventually, he did get a WS winner in this town. If the AS, LLC were actually in hot pursuit of a Stanley Cup, the fans would know it. The players would know it. And, ESPECIALLY, the agents representing the players would know it, and would clamor to sign here. When Chicago came under new ownership, every player’s agent knew it. The Blackhawks re-signed their key players, like Keith, Toews, and Kane. In 2008, they spent millions to get Campbell. And others. They won the Cup in 2010.

I repeat, hockey hasn’t started in Atlanta … until ownership is installed that’s trying to win. The stands will be full, when that happens. Atlantans don’t demand championships. They demand an HONEST EFFORT at it.