The question to you: What’s next for the Thrashers?

First, my apologies for not posting a blog for almost two days. As I hope you can understand it has been a loooooong and eventful stretch with my story on owner Michael Gearon saying there is a ’sense of urgency’ to find investors to keep the Thrashers in Atlanta. Oh,  and the Dustin Byfuglien signing. I got first word of the signing very shortly before my lengthy interview with Mr. Gearon. As you might imagine with a story of this magnitude, I spent quite a bit of time reporting, writing, fact checking, talking to many people about what it all means, etc. I hope you understand.

I want to thank two people in particular who helped greatly over the past two days.

Colleague Carroll Rogers stepped in and wrote the Byfuglien story for me so I could continue my reporting work. That’s not always an easy thing to do and she did it well. Thanks Carroll!

I also want to thank our Thrashers fan blogger Rawhide. He stepped up with an excellent posting that gave the many, many folks interested in what is going on a chance to voice their opinion. Thanks Bill!

Couple of other piece of housekeeping before we get to the blog. I am not traveling with the team on this trip to Phoenix and Edmonton. I assure you it was a decision made long before the current news. Once they return, I am scheduled for every road trip through the end of the season. I am also continuing to track trade talk and a possible move before or on the trade deadline. I can tell you they Thrashers were in on the Kris Versteeg talks. I can also tell you there are talks between the Thrashers and St. Louis on some level. Also, now that the Byfuglien deal is done, expect something on Andrew Ladd. He would be the next priority.

On to the topic at hand.

While I will let our folks who get paid for their opinion – Jeff Schultz, Mark Bradley and even Rawhide (hey, wait do we pay him?) – weigh in on who is at fault for the issues that face the Thrashers, I can say that I think Mr. Gearon is not just making an empty threat. I talked to him and his father for nearly two and a half hours on Tuesday. I – and he – understand that he is more the face of the Hawks and has more knowledge of the basketball side of the operation. However, on Tuesday he spoke with passion about both franchises and wanting to keep them in Atlanta. One of the things he told me was he would be willing to take a back seat, staying involved as a lesser owner, if a majority interested wanted to come in and keep the franchises in Atlanta. I take him at his word on that.

While selling and moving the Thrashers is a real possibility it is not yet reality. Selling a professional franchise it not easy. Look at some other cities around the NHL. You figure the NHL wants a team in the seventh largest television market.

It’s funny having just been in Raleigh for the All-Star Game last month. So many writers were using the Hurricanes as a prime example of why hockey can work in a non-traditional (I hate the word) market. I understand their are differences between the two situations. I was here – serving as the Pro Sports editor – in 2006-07 when the Thrashers made the playoffs. The arena was packed and vocal. I remember leaving one regular-season game after Marian Hossa had a hat trick and as I walked to the car people were in the middle of Centennial Olympic Blvd. chanting his name.

That was the past. It’s the future the Thrashers are staring at.

I’m not saying a playoff run this season will keep the team from moving. I’m not saying a building suddenly filled will make the difference. I don’t know if things will move quickly enough were this will be the last season for the Thrashers in Atlanta. The Atlanta Spirit were not going to find a buyer – or investors – during the long-going litigation. That was finally resolved in December.  The process really starts now.

The one thing I’ve learned in my nine years in Atlanta, more than most markets, is that you have to win here. I understand the fan frustration with one playoff appearance in 10 years. And no wins. I understand the fan bases and league’s frustration with owners stuck in litigation. It’s all part of the puzzle.

So let me know what you think. What’s next for the Thrashers? How do you see this situation playing out? Don’t just say they are gone or they stay. Give me your reasons. I’m interested in your opinion.

120 comments Add your comment

Alan R.

February 17th, 2011
10:25 am

I have no reason to not believe you, C-Viv. I really hope this franchise has a future here.

Smoothie

February 17th, 2011
10:28 am

“I remember leaving one regular-season game after Marian Hossa had a hat trick and as I walked to the car people were in the middle of Centennial Olympic Blvd. chanting his name.”

I was right behind the passionate Slovaks who were chanting and my throat was dry and hoarse from chanting the same. That was such a fun and exciting time. I wish more people in this city knew what it was like to feel connected to a community and its diversity of hockey-loving citizens in such a passionate and celebratory setting.

HOCKEY CAN WORK IN THIS TOWN!!! RISE UP ATLANTA.

Adam

February 17th, 2011
10:28 am

Since Bon Jovi is on the Falcons, the Thrashers need to seek out Ted Nugent and bring him on board!

R. Stroz

February 17th, 2011
10:30 am

The ASG is CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP.

Gearon used a specious point in his interview with Kincade yesterday, a single season example, to show the ASG isn’t cheap, so here’s the whole truth, something an ASG owner wouldn’t understand. Gearon stated that the Hawks payroll THIS SEASON is one of the highest in the NBA. We’ll assume this a true statement being that they re-signed Joe Johnson, Al Horford, and Mike Bibby. HOWEVER, ONCE AGAIN, AN ASG OWNER FAILED TO TELL THE WHOLE TRUTH.

Over the last few NBA seasons, not including the present one, the Atlanta Hawks have been at or near the bottom of the NBA in payroll since the Spirit Clowns purchased the Hawks, Thrashers, and Philips Arena.

Notice in the list below that the Hawks payroll NEVER exceeds the 50th percentile of the 30 NBA teams. Only in the 2008-2009 season, when the Hawks brought in Mike Bibby at the trade deadline, did the Hawks payroll exceed the 30th percentile.

2005-06 $36,632,449 28th (29 teams)
2006-07 $47,812,036 25th (29 teams)
2007-08 $58,531,493 22nd (29 teams)
2008-09 $68,607,953 17th (30 teams)
2009-10 $70,198,210 23rd (30 teams)

So since the ASG took over the Hawks, the team payroll ranked 28th, 25th, 22nd, 17th, and 23rd relative to the other 30 NBA teams.

LOOKS CHEAP TO ME. LOOKS LIKE THE ASG CAN’T PLAY AT THE BIG BOYS TABLE.

NOTE TO MICHAEL GEARON, YOU SHOULD STUDY THE TERM SAMPLING ERROR. YOU CAN FIND THIS TERM IN ANY STATISTICS BOOK.

The Thrashers, other than 2005-2006 season, have had a team payroll that has ranked in the bottom 20th percentile every season. The Thrashers payroll, since the 2005-2006 season, has ranked 24th, 26th, 29th, 28th, and currently 29th relative to the other 30 NHL teams.

LOOKS CHEAP TO ME. LOOKS LIKE THE ASG CAN’T PLAY AT THE BIG BOYS TABLE.

Mr. Gearon, those are the real facts, all of them, not just a specious anomaly.

So, what is the problem all of a sudden? Gearon told you: the Hawks now have a real payroll THIS SEASON. Yes, the ASG boys blew all their money on their Johnson, or the Hawks, whichever you prefer. Now, they don’t have enough dough for the Thrashers.

Once again, Gearon stated the problem today, alluding to the difficulty of MAINTAINING A PAYROLL FOR TWO TEAMS. And once again we reach the real conclusion, the ASG NEVER WANTED TWO TEAMS JUST ONE.

The ASG doesn’t have enough dough to run two franchises, something they should have thought of when they bought them, something that’s obvious with a little payroll analysis: BIG OOPS!

So instead of the ASG being merely CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP…we should add POOR, POOR, POOR.

The only way the Thrashers remain in Atlanta is simple:

1) A local buyer purchases the team.

2) The new buyer rents Philips Arena from the Spirit Clowns for a couple of years until

3) A NEW ARENA built on the north side of town.

4) Because no one can deal with the Spirit Clowns

Smoothie

February 17th, 2011
10:30 am

Oh yeah, almost forgot! Thanks Viv for all of your hard work and breaking all of the most important Thrashers news in a timely fashion. You have done a bang-up job. I just hope you get to keep doing it for a long while. But honestly, I have no reason to trust anything Michael Gearon says at this point. I hope you are right about his sincerity, but people have a way of seeming sincere when they have effed up so magnificently (and thus losing millions of dollars in the process) over the years. I believe the writing is on the wall, but I will do my part to support the franchise as long as it is here.

shootoutloss

February 17th, 2011
10:30 am

As many have said, I’m still waiting on Bettman to ride in on his white horse and save the day. We need help from the league now more than ever. Long live Blueland

Zoomo

February 17th, 2011
10:30 am

If the NHL has any sense, and I’m not saying they do, they’ll find a buyer for the franchise and keep the team here. The NHL needs the Atlanta TV market in it’s negotiations for a new TV deal. 2.4 million homes isn’t anything to sneeze at. Yes, a tiny fraction watches hockey here, but look what happened in places that have had a winner. Chicago’s hockey veiwers increased well over 100% with their run to the cup.

Having a team that contends in the playoffs is what is needed here. Winning would change everything.

Telfo

February 17th, 2011
10:31 am

I am really conflicted. I want to believe Gearon, but at the same time he is only a small part of the whole group. I hope they realize most of the problems have been caused by them and they dont blame fans. This team could probably be had for a relatively cheap amount (150 million maybe?) and the right owner could easily boost the value up to 200 million in a couple of years if they do things right.

I am really interested to know what the NHL is going to do, thus far they have been way too quiet on the whole thing, but Bettman found Vinik to buy Tampa and Hulsizer for Phoenix as well. I dont THINK the NHL will just give up on this market, surely they can see the potential if the franchise is run the right way. I am hoping the NHL can get us a buyer this summer.

I dont think there is anyone out there that knows the NHL business thinking that a team CANT work here. it absolutely can and i hope it gets a real chance.

Ideally someone will step up and buy the Thrashers, let the spirit keep that hawks/arena if they want, i really dont care. Although having the arena with the team probably makes it much easier to be profitable.

Go Thrashers!!

February 17th, 2011
10:31 am

I think that if we make a strong playoff push the fans will come back. Earlier in this season when we were playing good, we had several games with over 17,000 people

canofpeas

February 17th, 2011
10:34 am

Chris – good work the past few days. My opinion is they will be gone – most likely after ‘11-’12. I think the point about the media market is a good one, and is one thing we can hope plays in favor of the nhl wanting to keep the team here. That said, I think the combination of the lack of local investors and my assumption that the league really wants to be rid of ASG is going to win out in the end.

Telfo

February 17th, 2011
10:36 am

Another thing i forgot to mention is that our attendance was perfectly fine up until the 07-08 debacle. fans were on board with the long building of the team and then we had to start all over after just 4 playoff games. that really killed a lot of the fanbase. not to mention all of the Wings, Blackhawks, Sabres, Pens fans here. Those fans could be converted if we had some winning happen. there is no doubt in my mind that this team could easily average 17k per game if we at least competed most years.

Mr. Obvious (10-Year Thrashers STH)

February 17th, 2011
10:40 am

Next Move for the Thrashers:

Backing up U-Haul trucks to team facilities and beginning the trek to Quebec City.

toddism

February 17th, 2011
10:41 am

I heard the interview on the radio yesterday and it left me with a very bad feeling. This team is owned by a bunch of litigious twits who clearly think it’s the fans’ fault the attendance is bad.

1: Getting to Philips is a pain. I live in Gwinnett. I HATE GOING DOWN THERE. Atlanta PD couldn’t direct 6 bigwheels in a circle. Parking sucks.

2: Gearon kept saying stupid things like “there are 30 teams – only one will win a championship”. I don’t think we really expect a Stanley Cup each year. We do want a team we think has a chance to make and compete in the playoffs. We’d like a team that could win a cup. Why is it Pittsburgh and Detroit and Washington compete most every year? Magic hockey dust?

3: See #1.

4: I’m rambling ’cause I’m pissed.

Zoomo

February 17th, 2011
10:41 am

Just to add some data to my prior post. Here’s what winning did to TV viewership in Chicago –

Chicago, IL (April 12, 2010) – Comcast SportsNet, the television home for the most games and most comprehensive coverage of the 2009-10 NHL Central Division champion Chicago Blackhawks, posted the highest Blackhawks final regular season average in the history of Chicago regional sports television — a 2.44 final household season average (over 85,400 households watching per game) — a 94% increase over last season’s 1.26 final average and a 287% increase from the final season average just two years ago (0.63). In addition, Comcast SportsNet set an all-time regular season “single game” ratings record on SIX occasions this season with the latest record being a 4.35 household rating for a home game vs. Vancouver on March 5.

Smoothie

February 17th, 2011
10:42 am

If we are engaged in talkd with St. Louis, could we be expressing interest in Eric Brewer? He seems to be on the trade block and he might not be a bad return, along with a young player like Berglund. Just spit-ballin’ to see what y’all think. Not sure I’d really want to deal with StL unless it was for a depth defenseman (think Colaiacovo).

jb

February 17th, 2011
10:44 am

The Nuge is a Wings fan

Iron League 13

February 17th, 2011
10:45 am

First off, CVivs, THANKS FOR ALL OF YOUR WORK!!! You and Rawhide are THE BEST things going for this franchise in the media overrall. I do appreciate Mr. Bradley and Schultz chiming in from time to time too, but I digress.

Hockey in this market and likely most sunbelt markets NEED HAND HOLDING BY THE LEAGUE. The expansion was vast and uncalculated, a crapshoot if you will. Yes, we have in all likelihood a million or better hockey initiated transplants from “traditional” and co-opted northern locales, buuut…they have unshakable loyalties. THAT SAID, THEY ARE THE BREAD AND BUTTER IN THESE MARKETS FOR AN INDEFINITE DURATION, PERIOD. They will go to games regardless, even eventually supporting this local team too, that mostly depends on the success of such a team. They will not continue to go to these games if they are not entertaining, unless their hometown team is in town (can you say Rangers?). They are also THE BIGGEST ASSET IN SPREADING THE HOCKEY BUG. For every unfamiliar southerner that attends a good game with a knowledgeable hockey enthusiast (in this case a northern transplant) the odds are good that you just spiked an interest and made a new fan. I’ve seen it many times. I’ve done this many times. Why the league can’t wrap their heads around that simple fact is beyond me. Mostly perennially playoff contending teams are VITAL in these warmer southern regions, it’s all about winning.

Let’s not forget that co-opted northern markets such as Pittsburgh and currently Long Island have and are going through the same ailments for the mostly the same reasons as this market is now. Mediocre products coupled with bad owners (i.e., Wang).

steve brown

February 17th, 2011
10:46 am

1 playoff in 10 years. Enough said about this group of owners. Given enough time perhaps a new owner steps forward. Is there enough time. Unlikely as the Gearons are only trying to justify their failures so that when the team is gone they can lay blame elsewhere. Our odds of keeping the team are very small. Your line that he spoke with passion about both franchises is laughable-that wasn’t passion that was a selling job on you and the fans you write for. Get real.

Curious George

February 17th, 2011
10:46 am

Was Dustin Byfuglien of the distinct viability of the franchise being relocated next season BEFORE he signed his contract extension?

Curious George

February 17th, 2011
10:50 am

CORRECTION:

Was Dustin Byfuglien AWARE of the distinct viability of the franchise being relocated next season *BEFORE* he signed his contract extension?

Jim

February 17th, 2011
10:51 am

Your point about winning in this town is spot on. More so than any other market i’ve had contact with, Atlantan’s are tight with their entertainment dollars but are more than willing to shell it out for a good product. There are glaring examples. Falcons – Poor ownership kept fans away because they showed no short/longterm committment to winning. New ownership/leadership has changed that. Braves – same deal – more so leadership in this case. Prove you’re serious about winning (and eventually WIN) and they will come.

While some on the ownership group may have good intentions, they’ve brought this ill will on themselves. From lack of focus to incredibly poor timing (honestly – could we not enjoy the Byfuglien extension for even a few days before you drop the bomb that they may move??) – fans are left with a horrible taste.

I know it’s a worn out comparison, but put an Arthur Blank type individual out front, visible, accountable and see what happens to this team/fan base. There are many such examples of a connected, driven owner who (although a championship might temporarily evade them) can have that emotional tie and still manage & direct a great franchise.

Thanks

Brett

February 17th, 2011
10:52 am

I fear the end is near for the Thrashers in Atlanta unless someone steps up and buys the team from the Atlanta Spirit. I can’t see why someone would want to invest in this team if the Spirit are still involved. I truely hope this situation is resolved and the Thrashers remain in Atlanta! Hockey is such a great sport. Go to a game and you’ll be hooked. If you’re inclined pray for a miracle!!!

Joe Friday

February 17th, 2011
10:54 am

Problem with counting on the “#7 media market” here is that it’s not an accurate assessment for hockey. I’m sure Atlanta was #7 watching Survivor last night and is #7 in football, etc. But in the most highly rated Stanley Cup finals in years last Spring, Atlanta was nowhere to be found on the TV ratings, cities like Las Vegas, Indy, Seattle, Greensboro, Milwaukee, Palm Beach, etc. all outdrew us. We’re not a top media market for hockey.

I think it’s pretty clear the decision has already been made. Bill Daly said it last fall “if someone doesn’t step up to buy the club or invest, we’re going to have to look at other options”.

We can sit around and guess and hope all day long but the mere fact is that yesterday one of our owners said they’re going to move the team, after trying to sell it for the past 6 years, if no one steps up quickly. And the basic truth is that statement was met with dead silence from Bettman and the Board of Governors. If the NHL was committed to keeping the franchise here in Atlanta, they would have immediately come out with a statement admonishing Gearon and assuring the fans that the NHL was committed to staying in Atlanta.

But we have dead silence today from Bettman. That silence speaks volumes, if you’re listening . . .

Curious George

February 17th, 2011
10:55 am

Along with the reported “modified no-trade clause” contained in it, does Dustin Byfuglien’s new contract give him a player option to void the remainder of the contract’s term if the franchise relocates to a less-desirable destination like, say, Quebec or Alabama?

Hip Czech

February 17th, 2011
10:56 am

The thing that irks me the most is Gearon saying unless the fans step up, unless the fans spend money, unless the fans blah blah blah.

Look in the mirror ASG clowns. This is not about the fans.

The fact that there are TWO professional hockey teams (if you count the Thrashers as being professional…) in the Atlanta market would seem to prove that this town can handle an NHL team.

Field a competitive team, do some REAL marketing and act like you care and the fans will respect that.

I also don’t understand these transplant fans…the ones who come out to cheer on (fill in the visiting team). Fine, come to those games wear your opposing team jersey, have fun. But if you are truly a hockey fan why not come to other games? I was a Caps fan moving down here and I go to all the Caps games (though now would rather see the Thrashers win those games) but I would still attend other games just because there’s nothing better than being at the rink.

canofpeas

February 17th, 2011
11:01 am

Joe F – a very good point on Bettman’s silence and sadly you are probably correct. Can anyone that knows the numbers better than me answer – what is the avg attendance number at which “the fans” are no longer the problem. 15K? 17K? 20K? (unattainable, obviously) I know NHL teams derive a big portion of revenue from ticket sales but how much is it?

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Chris Telford and Gregory Ramshaw, Chris Vivlamore. Chris Vivlamore said: The question to you: What’s next for the Thrashers? http://bit.ly/gvD2LG [...]

Winnipeg Jet

February 17th, 2011
11:01 am

I think that when the Thrashers move to Winnipeg, they should change the name to the Jets.

Iron League 13

February 17th, 2011
11:06 am

Cvivs – If you read my last post you’ll understand where I’m coming from when I say, no I think they are VERY close to being referred to in the past tense. Like I said, the expansion was never calculated beyond the obvious “hey that’s a big city with money and a building, let’s give it a whirl”, at least that’s how it seems. Bettman and Co. are just as culpable as the F.A.S., LLC for lack of commitment to fostering it, they dropped the ball, they help jade a potential fanbase by default.

That said…The patience has worn anemically thin after all this neglect and now this tragi-comedy of a leak. I don’t see a miracle happening now with an investor or new owner, I just don’t. Unless this team turns into an unstopable machine (again WINNING is EVERYTHING) starting ASAP, put a fork in it there’s not enough hope or enthusiasm to rally around this franchise.

Iron League 13

February 17th, 2011
11:13 am

Winnipeg Jet – _nlm <- There ya go.

dmr

February 17th, 2011
11:14 am

R. Stroz had some great analysis about the money issues surrounding the Hawks and Thrashers. If true (since I haven’t done the research), it shows a lack of commitment and a reason for the lack of success with both these teams.

Atlanta, as a sports town, gets a bad rap. I think Bradley wrote an article about 149 years of professional sports in this town and only 1 Championship. This isn’t college athletics. You don’t get love and devotion, in general because your Team is part of a larger institution that we gravitate to for one reason or another.

Professional sports is a business. Fans are the consumers. As the “flock of sheep” mentality wears off of fans, fans will demand more. They will stop using discretionary income on things that don’t make them feel better about the world around them. The Atlanta Spirit Group has been a publicity nightmare for the City of Atlanta, and the sports teams they own. Too many egos, too many cooks in the kitchen, too many wannabes, and too little commitment to the patrons.

I LOVE THE FREE MARKET SYSTEM. The ASG does not need to be bailed out by the league. If they can sell the franchise and keep it here, great. If they have to take less money; oh well, join the club. If the team moves, so be it.

Take a page from the Arthur Blank ownership manual: 1.) Hire the best in the business and let them run the show. 2.) Concentrate on your customers and you will be rewarded. 3.) Express your true desire to win and not use a franchise and its fans as your personal piggy-bank. I’d take a Mark Cuban type owner over any of the members of the ASG.

Honestly, I cannot see a single investor wanting to buy into this deal if any member of the ASG will be staying…no matter how much of a “Back Seat” he is willing to take.

Darkhorse

February 17th, 2011
11:18 am

Thanks for all the hard work C Viv.

From a business point of view, I can understand if ownership doesn’t have any interest or knowledge about owning a hockey franchise, then they should do everything possible to unload it.

What is a sham is the way they choose to run it. Do the owners really believe they’ve done their part to help the sucess of the team? Using the l”osing team formula for success” year after year and it’s the fans fault? Right….sure. Look at the arena. It’s starting to show signs of wear, outdated decor/technology and lack of upkeep, but yet we always read about how much money it makes them. That said, I really do like our arena as a whole, it just needs a fair amount of tlc.

But all these other teams are being bought/sold with out of town owners in many cases(Tampa twice, the Coyotes, Carolina…..).

Viv-Do you get any type of gut feeling that they sincerly do want to keep the team here under new ownership, rather than sell to the highest bidder(Canada most likely)? Or is all that just a smokescreen to cover that they have a deal to sell to someone that’s going to move the team? It makes sense on paper for the ASG to sell them, but keep them as tenents IMO.

I read everyone’s comments not to expect any help from Bettman or the league. But it boggles my mind that the NHL will allow this city to lose another franchise due to very poor ownership/management the entire time.

It’s a fact the Thrashers and their fans have never really had a fair chance at success.

What ever became of the supposed two or three interested investors last summer? Are you hearing anything out there about people starting to kick the tires on this franchise Viv?

What…..a….f***ing……mess.

Iron League 13

February 17th, 2011
11:18 am

Enter your comments here

Rich

February 17th, 2011
11:22 am

Michael Gearon: “I think it helps having fans show up because it demonstrates that the city is committed to the team.”

It would be easy to be committed to this team had the ownership group shown some level of commitment over the years. It works both ways.

Atlanta Spirit has failed the hockey fans of this city.

NHL Ready

February 17th, 2011
11:22 am

I am concern for Atlanta to lose their NHL team. I would hate for them to leave. Hockey is my sport nothing better especially if you were brought up on the sport and understand all the non-written rules. The new fans would not understand the depth of this game and only understand winning. Do I see a buyer who will save us probably not. Will the NHL walk in and save us probably not. The Canadian Fans understand the game so much better than our Fans here in Atlanta. I can remember one game when the Goalie was pulled for the extra skater and a Fan (use that term loosely) starts yelling where the Goalie at, Where the Goalie at. I thought to myself if we depend on people like this to carry this team we are in Big Trouble. If the Thrashers stay they need to be free of Atlanta Spirt no connections what so ever.

Sherry Taylor

February 17th, 2011
11:23 am

The ASG reminds me of those 7th grade social studies project groups the teacher put together to get work out of underachievers and teach community work ethic to the students who hate group work because what the group gets done in six weeks they can get done in one evening. The work eventually gets done with one part of the group getting an A, not because they deserve it or did the work, but because the other group did all of the work and presented it as the work of the whole. The teacher knows who did the work but can’t do anything about giving out grades that are deserved, it’s one grade for all. This only after weeks of in-fighting and tantrums and reports back to the teacher about ’so and so is not doing the work’. The teacher knows the project is basically a lie, but she puts up with the effort. I feel like the teacher. I, and most of the loyal Thrashers fans, have watched the tantrums, manipulations, and in fighting going on for almost eight years, but we can’t do a thing about it. We can’t buy anymore season tickets, we already have them. We can’t get out there and rope and tie unsuspecting people on the street, drag them into the arena and make them buy a ticket and sit in the seats. We can’t. We, the season ticket holders, have done our part, we have supported the TEAM all of this time, all the while knowing that the men pulling the strings didn’t really care so much, perhaps less than we do, about the Thrashers. I mean, what would you think, out of eight owners one was a hockey guy and he’s the one who quickly saw the writing on the wall. Fans who are there all of the time have looked around for a visible sign that at least one owner is there, but as far as we know, none are there. Maybe they are, but they are hidden well, must be high, high up in one of those exclusive boxes. Thrashers fans have only seen this group when they are in trouble, involved in yet another law suit or when they are throwing out not so empty threats of losing the team. I’ll admit, I’m one who has said it would be great to have an ‘Arthur Blank’ type owner, and one reason is because fans and the community can see that he is totally and completely behind his team. It would have been nice to see that from at least one owner. They have been so invisible I doubt there are many season ticket holders would know Michael Gearon or Bruce Levenson if they came up to us and punched us in the nose.
Every home game, there have been some we’ve missed, my husband and I drive down to Atlanta from Gainesville. The first few years we shared the ticket with friends but when they backed out we took their shares over because we had that much fun. And, every year at the end of another disappointing season we’ve uttered the same hope, ‘Next year, maybe next year.’ Over the summer we watched Rick Dudley come in and take command of what has been for most of the team’s history a rudderless ship and begin to steer in the right direction. We knew that it was going to be a process and that it wasn’t all going to happen this year, but we could finally believe that it would happen. Even after the post-Christmas slide we’ve still believed that it would happen. We believed in Blueland.
I think the ASG are crazy if they think fans want to rally around them, the team, the coach, the players yes, but not the owners. They have lied, they’ve manipulated, they have betrayed the fans. They should come sit in the season ticket sections and see that there really is a solid base to build on. Well, maybe they shouldn’t do that for a week or two, not after this lasted blast. But, they might learn a thing or two.
And, as to Gearon saying they are tired of and can’t continue to throw millions of dollars at the Thrashers and lose money, well, I’m not sure the fan base believes they have done that. Thank goodness, Ilya Kovalchuk saved them from themselves. This team is better than it ever was with the ‘boy wonder’.
Anyway, my family supports the team–the coach, this GM, the players, we don’t support the owners in name only. A team’s heart comes from the top, is it any wonder this team has struggled to find it’s heart?

Joe Friday

February 17th, 2011
11:24 am

I’d like to make on thing very clear. While I truly believe that the decision has been made to allow the Spirit to sell the team and be allowed to move the team (the crickets chirping today instead of Bettman roaring his displeasure with Gearon’s comments and Daly’s previous comments, speaks volumes), I do not want to go down without a fight.

Winners never quit and quitters never win. I’ve emailed the Governor and the Mayor via the links provided on the Blank save our team site and I emailed the NHL front office. Now the Gov and the Mayor can’t do anything using public dollars, state and local govts are all in huge budget crunches due to dropping revenue, but they can and should use their bully pulpits to try to fight for the team. I pointed out to the Gov and the Mayor that the loss of the Thrash is loss of revenue for them in tax dollars and they should try to save this.

I urge each and every one of you to take your anger and channel it into something productive. Write letters, send emails, make phone calls, and don’t go down without a fight. At least you can wake up the day you hear the news and know that you tried . . . and if enough of us try, it just may work.

Anonymous Fan

February 17th, 2011
11:26 am

I know how passionate hockey fans of the Flames felt. Canada is poaching our team, taking advantage of horrid ownership of a poorly run franchise. We had a glimmer of hope this season and as always is turns into a dark cloud. What other franchise has had to deal with superstar after superstar leaving town, ownership squabbles and even the tragic death of a player. We fans are embittered and battered, I’ve personally been here since day 1, that very first 19 win season, the bulk of games broadcast on Turner South. It’s heart breaking that NHL hockey will be leaving Atlanta for the 2nd and last time. We deserved better, I would have rather not even been given the chance to love this team only to have it taken away. I wish we would have never been awarded a franchise, we wouldn’t be suffering right now.

the Captain

February 17th, 2011
11:29 am

So let me get this straight. The ASG has consistently put no effort into the hockey side, never really promoted the team in any meaningful way (commercials for the team during games? Isn’t that preaching to the choir?). They have lied to, and repetitively shown distain for their own fans. Refuse to put a good team together. And then they arrogantly “threaten” the fans they have left to show up to games to they’ll move the team, rather than fix their own product to attract more?!

Sherry Taylor

February 17th, 2011
11:35 am

And, what investor in their right mind would get ‘in bed’ with these guys? Unless the unnamed savior/investor came in as the majority holder and managing partner who would suffer no fools, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to walk into this group much less think they could get something accomplished.

Sherry Taylor

February 17th, 2011
11:38 am

@Joe Friday–your idea is better than boycotting. Good idea!

Iron League 13

February 17th, 2011
11:41 am

CViv – I think Bettman and Co. having NOT addressed this is telling. They’ve done what they could in Phoenix, to no avail and have NO plans to do it here as a result. The Coyotes WERE good once, then hit a rough patch of mediocrity surprisingly under Gretzky, add a dash of scandal and voila…nothing a winning year could repair in short order. So, that goes hand in hand with how fragile these markets are outside of a handful of cities. Atlanta will not be an exception, IMHO. They are good as gone.

Our best hope for long term hockey is the minors AHL and ECHL. If you think about it, that’s much more fitting for a sun-belt town and IT’S PROVEN SUCCESSFUL. The Knights did great and were loved, they only left for this sad franchise and Philips replacing the Omni.

Iron League 13

February 17th, 2011
11:43 am

I should add that most transplants pull for the local minor team in nearly all cases, they have no real alliances in those leagues. I just want entertaining professional hockey, the IHL was at the same level of the AHL when it existed and I loved it. Much more fun and money better spent than on the Thrashers.

40yra

February 17th, 2011
11:44 am

I love watching hockey live and in person. It is way better than on TV. I have been a Sabres fan for 40 years. I attend about 30 Thrashers games a year and except for 2 of those games I cheer for the Thrashers.

In my 25 years in Atlanta I’ve seen one thing hold true in professional sports, if you don’t win attendance will suffer.

Yes the ASG stinks but it is still better than the owners robbing the team blind until they go bankrupt and having to be taken over by the league. With the right ownership the Thrashers can recover and the league would love to have a team in Atlanta.

David McDavid would be the owner if Time Warner did not want to keep a 5%-15% stake.

In the end the owners don’t play the games it is up to the coaches and players to win and us the fans to prove that hockey belongs in Atlanta.

R. Stroz

February 17th, 2011
11:47 am

For the love of hockey people, go on the Arthur Blank Save the Thrashers Website, procure the email addresses of Kasim Reed and Nathan Deal, and write some well written emails.

Explain the lose of tax revenue if the team leaves town in form of lower sales tax revenue, lower hotel tax revenue, politicians understand taxes well.

Tell them you have little reason to venture downtown if the Thrashers leave. Goodness knows the city of Atlanta needs all the tax revenue it can get.

Zombie Steve

February 17th, 2011
11:51 am

This team will not move – Bettman/NHL will buy out the Octotards and hold until a new buyer emerges.

tonyb

February 17th, 2011
11:51 am

to Joe F and canofpeas-the league office did speak in an article in yesterdays USA Today. Here is the quote:
“There is no doubt that the long-standing ownership dispute has damaged this club significantly,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told Ray Glier in USA Today. But Daly reaffirmed the NHL’s desire to keep the team where it is, in the league’s eighth largest TV market, which is also home to a number of major corporations.

That is from the league office. This is not coming from ASG. Bettman also spoke two weeks ago about the Thrashers to Chris, and seemed to voice some concerns about the litigation issue with the ASG, but never mentioned or hinted at relocation. In response to Quebec building an arena to lure an NHL team, he again stated that the NHL has no plans to expand or relocate.

What does this mean. I will tell you. The league right now is trying to stabilize the Coyote situation. The City of Glendale is issuing bonds to give the new owner 100 million dollars immediately upon his purchase of the team, and another 90 million over 6 years to offset operating loses. Seriously. The NHL is using the “if you don’t make this happen the team is in Winnipeg next year” club to make this happen. The last thing the league wants is to announce that the Thrashers are going to Winnipeg, as leverage is lost. Its better to remain silent at this point then to say something to kill the deal.

What does the future hold. Well, people need to go to the games. This will show the league and investors what the market has to offer. Second, the grass roots movement is also solid. The fans need to let their voices be heard in both words and action. Trust me, the NHL knows the score here in the ATL., and they really don’t want to lose this market. It wants TV money, and pulling teams out of places like Atlanta and Phoenix and placing them is small Canadian outposts is a huge step backwards for the league, and I;m not sure Bettman is going to let that happen..

I will say this, I think Bettman is a man of integrity. When he says that the league will do what it can to help franchises stay put, I believe him. If he just let the team up and move after all of the lip services he pays to league stability, then yes, he would lose integrity and influence. I really believe when the Phoenix situation is resolve, the commissioner will help. Lets give a reason to.

tommy2tone

February 17th, 2011
11:53 am

I’ll kick in 20 bucks for part ownership. Just give me my novelty “Part Owner” certificate to hang on the wall. Then I can say; “See kids, I’m not such a loser, I own part of the Thrashers”. Oh, wait.

Iron League 13

February 17th, 2011
11:57 am

Dude where’s my posts?

Mooseberg

February 17th, 2011
11:59 am

Whats next? We continue to be lied to so much that we all go to next friday’s game and there is no sign the thrashers ever existed and the Panthers for some reason took a flight to Canada. Someone get these idiots away from NHL ownership, there has to be someone out there watching all this knowing he/she/they can get a good deal right now…and keep the team in Atlanta.