Chance to comment on latest in Thrashers ownership situation

Below is the story from yesterday’s AJC on the Thrashers ownership situation. There is nothing different than the story that appeared online and in print, I just wanted you give you a place to comment.

So have at it. Our team will continue reporting this story and will update any developments.

A day after the future of the NHL franchise in Phoenix was decided, the fate of the one in Atlanta remained uncertain, with a spokesman for Mayor Kasim Reed acknowledging the Thrashers “may leave” the city.

Thrashers and NHL officials were not saying much Wednesday, following the vote late Tuesday night by the Glendale, Ariz., city council to pay the league $25 million to keep the Phoenix Coyotes in Arizona for another season. The Coyotes had been targeted by a Winnipeg group interested in purchasing the franchise and moving it to Manitoba. With the Coyotes staying put, the Winnipeg group likely will turn its sole focus to the Thrashers.

Reese McCranie, spokesman for Reed, said Atlanta has not been approached by the NHL about making a financial deal such as Glendale’s. Even if approached, the city — in the midst of pension reform and possible layoffs in 2012 — would not consider it, McCranie said.

“We are aware that the ownership of the Thrashers is having difficulty and they may leave,” McCranie said. “The mayor has had robust discussions with business leaders in the metro region [who might] potentially buy or join a team of buyers to keep the Thrashers here.

“He has gone through extraordinary lengths to ensure that the Thrashers can stay in Atlanta, but at this moment there is not a deal on the table that we can present.”

William Pate, president of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, said losing the Thrashers would be a blow to the city’s brand.

“Atlanta is obviously an international city and a major sports town, both professional and collegiate, one of the handful of cities that has a professional team in every major sport,” Pate said Wednesday. “Just from the brand of the city, if you will, it would be disappointing to see our hockey franchise leave the city.”

Pate said “a lot of conventioneers and tourists, particularly from the North” like to go to Thrashers games at Philips Arena.

The Thrashers’ ownership group, Atlanta Spirit, has been looking for buyers for the financially struggling franchise and has expressed a “sense of urgency” to reach a solution. Relocation is one possibility, ownership has said.

“We are continuing to seek solutions for the Thrashers,” part-owner Bruce Levenson said Wednesday. “I will not comment on any speculation.”

Another part-owner, Michael Gearon Jr., said his desire remains to find a solution that will keep the team in Atlanta. Gearon said he “can’t comment with respect to other cities,” saying “that’s a question for the league office.”

Requests for comment from the NHL about the future of the Thrashers in Atlanta were not answered.

The Glendale council voted 5-2 late Tuesday to approve the deal to keep the Coyotes in Arizona. The city paid the NHL $25 million last week for operating expenses for the league-owned team for last season and agreed this week to do the same for next season.

With the Coyotes seemingly safe in Arizona for another season, the NHL can continue work on a deal with prospective buyer Matthew Hulsizer. The league also could search for another buyer for the Coyotes, as the deal with Hulsizer has been complicated and met with some resistance from a local watchdog group.

Staff writers Ernie Suggs, Tim Tucker and Chris Vivlamore contributed to this article.

205 comments Add your comment

Toni

May 12th, 2011
8:26 am

If/when they start answering your calls, can you ask the NHL why they’ve gone through all this trouble with the Coyotes but seem to be wiling to give up on the Thrashers after they’ve only been for sale for five months? Because the court documents from the ASG’s latest case state that they couldn’t sell the team until December. And the Thrashers have lost less money and have had better attendance almost every year when compared to the Coyotes.

Hockeyfan

May 12th, 2011
8:30 am

Levenson is an A$$

Stan Drulia

May 12th, 2011
8:31 am

I would bet my bottom dollar that the ASG was behind closed doors all night last night trying to dump this team. I am already in mourning because it seems inevitable that the Thrashers are done here. Jesus. Can’t believe that NHL values the Phoenix Coyotes more than us. Surely our market is far more valuable in every sense???? Guess not. Any idea whether or not we will be getting minor league team to replace them??? I loved the Knights and would love to spend $40 to be on the glass. Not the same as NHL – but right now the NHL is a joke to me.

KLS1

May 12th, 2011
8:33 am

The only one still laughing in all of this is David McDavid. He should sned a Christmas card to these guys every year for the pay out he recieved.

I hope the ASG clowns go back to what they are good at, collecting checks from their Dad’s and acting like overgrown frat boys at buckhead bars.

Complete and utter failure on very level…disgusting.

Jason

May 12th, 2011
8:34 am

Atlanta Spirit Group = Atlanta’s New William Tecumseh Sherman.

Telfo

May 12th, 2011
8:37 am

ASG and the NHL know this is damaging the fanbase here…unfortunately the silence speaks volumes about what is happening.

Thomas Magnum

May 12th, 2011
8:42 am

I can’t believe that the NHL has not spoken up by now to at least give people an idea about what they are thinking in regards to the situation down here. Like was said above, they have spent years trying to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix and now have said little to nothing about the Thrashers. So that leads me to believe one of two things: that they are turning a blind eye to the fans down here and will let the team be sold and moved to Winnipeg or that this is not nearly the dire situation that everyone in the press is making it out to be and the Thrashers are not going any where for now. I just wish we knew because this is driving me crazy after following the team since day one. I will never EVER give a single dollar to the Atlanta Spirit if they allow this team to be moved back to Winnipeg and I’m sure many other Thrashers fans feel the same. In fact, they would be better off dumping all their investments in the Thrashers, Hawks and Phillips to someone who would do things right. I don’t want to give them my money anymore anyway with how they’ve handled this and every other situation since gaining control of the franchise.

Sherry Taylor

May 12th, 2011
8:42 am

I don’t know the current owners of The Thrashers, but I am bordering on hate for them. I realize that is a purely emotional outburst, but after watching what these grown boys have done to not just the Thrashers but the Hawks and the sports community of Atlanta, I am sickened by their antics. How they can hope that anyone would take them seriously in the business world is beyond me. Certainly the two that are tied to Ted Turner have learned nothing from him. They have robbed Peter (the Thrashers franchise and fans) to pay Paul (Hawks and their fans). To anyone even remotely watching their school yard behavior over the past years it is clear they don’t know anything about business, management, marketing or promotion. They spent, how many years, building their ‘brand’ around ONE player, Kovalchuk, and look what that got them and the team. Only this last season did there seem to be any awareness by them in promoting and that was to promote the players of color–giving the impression that the team had four Aftrican-American players, which was not true, one is an American, but that is to be expected. They lied about everything else, why not lie about the nationality of players.
I would be very surprised if they could find someone to join them in ownership to run the Thrashers, think about it, who in their right mind would want to get involved with these third graders.
As far as Kasim Reed and the city of Atlanta are concerned–they are willing to lay down how many millions to build Arthur Blank a new stadium but not willing to do anything for the Thrashers? Why? Did Mayor Reed attend any Thrasher games? Did he put his face out their as a supporter of the team? Not that I saw, but I’m just one person. I guess this team needs a ‘flying vee’ play to save it, but it isn’t going to get it from the city, so it must be up to the fans.
Yes, crowds were miserable, but those of us who were there were loud and supportive! Everyone knows how fickle Atlanta sports crowds/fans are, we show up when you win, we boo when we’re there and you don’t. The market is there, it is time for Bettman to step in and put as much elbow grease into finding new ownership here as he has in Tampa, Nashville and certainly, Phoenix. If he doesn’t, then Bettman is a liar, the worst kind, the kind that feels your pain, tells you he wants to fix it and he will fix it, then he walks away.
Emotional, yes, I’m emotional, because we have invested 11 years into this franchise, driven at least 4000 miles a year to watch them at home, so i get to be emotional.

chief of smoke

May 12th, 2011
8:43 am

Bettman’s silence is disturbing. He has made umpteen trips to Phoenix to save a very good Hockey Team with Very Bad Attendance. Why didn’t he just let them go back to Winnipeg where they came from.

The Thrashers need to win to suceed. The Coyotes cant Financially succeed even when they win

.

Russ

May 12th, 2011
8:43 am

If the Thrashers are going to move, I wish the NHL would seek a buyer in Kansas City. I think that has more potential as a market than Winnipeg and they already have a state-of-the-art arena.

jp

May 12th, 2011
8:43 am

The worst part in all this is we can’t find one billionaire to invest 200 million or so in the franchise to keep them in Atlanta. Where is Ted Turner when you need him? Remember how happy he was when we got the Thrashers, where has he gone. Somebody give him a call. Where’s the Cox Family? How about Tyler Perry?

Andy

May 12th, 2011
8:44 am

Simple: if the Thrashers are moved, I will never set foot inside Phillips or attend a Hawks game as long as any of the current owners still own any part of the same, I will never watch a Hawks game on TV. It also just gives me one more reason to move out of this city.

Really NHL, Well my wallet is closed to you forever

May 12th, 2011
8:45 am

I can’t believe that Bettman is going to sacrifice the number 8 market for the number 13. And I bet NBC won’t be happy either. Go ahead send my team to Canada, but don’t cry to us when it fails and it will fail just like the Yotes will fail soon too. BITE ME NHL!!!!!!! You will never ever get another dollar of my money. No road trips to see the closest team. No more merchandise period. NCAA Hockey all the way now. Go Fighting Sioux!

jp

May 12th, 2011
8:48 am

Hey Sherry, you get 5 STARS. Very well written, I can’t believe we can’t support a franchise in Atlanta with the 7th biggest television market

Bluestreak

May 12th, 2011
8:48 am

I just have a hard time believing that Bettman wouldn’t give at least the same support for the city and franchise that he gave to the BANKRUPT Yotes. We’re in a bigger market, have lost less money and have had HORRIBLE ownership that even he and the NBA can’t stand for their ineptitude.

I think he may be giving them a chance to make the sale on their own to a local group. If they can’t, I would think Bettman would take the team over before sending them North.

There is also the possiblity that ownership is not wanting to sell the Hawks during the playoffs. Once they are eliminated, something may be revealed.

Fighting to keep Phoenix and letting the larger market Atlanta team move to an even smaller market than Phoenix in Manitoba just doesn’t make good business sense. Bettman, if nothing else, has good business sense. Despite what all Canadian and some northern US fans say, having NHL teams in more profitable markets is better for the bottom line.

Everyone agrees that Winnipeg had poor attendence issues before they were moved last time around. How much honeymoon would this team have before they were being re-relocated due to more poor attendence issues?

I think not long. And I think Bettman realizes it.

Joe Friday

May 12th, 2011
8:49 am

“I would bet my bottom dollar that the ASG was behind closed doors all night last night trying to dump this team.”

I wouldn’t. I think this deal has been in place for a long time, the only thing holding it up has been the fate of the Coyotes. True North’s first choice was to take that franchise back, when that didn’t happen, here comes Plan B.

Put the pieces together. Bill Daly said last fall that if someone didn’t buy us, other options were on the table. The ASG told us a long time ago they were not going to take any more losses on the Thrashers, not even one more year. The day that the ASG filed that suit against King and Spalding, admitting to all the fans that they’ve been lying to us for years, that was the biggest red flag. The deal has been done, that’s why they didn’t care about alienating us with the facts that came out in that lawsuit.

I feel bad for those given false hope by that Balkan nonsense.

What disgusts me the most is Bettman’s silence through all this, it’s also what’s worried me the most. He never came out and said he’d fight to keep Atlanta here. They gave up on us a long time ago. The silence coming out of the NHL front office is deafening.

Videofarmer

May 12th, 2011
8:52 am

I was just going to boycott the Atlanta Spirit and never set foot in Philips again and switch my support to the Predators, but now I will refuse to support the NHL as well. I won’t buy tickets to NHL games or even click on the their website again. No watching game 7 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs or All star Games or the Winter Classic. They are letting me know they don’t care about me and my family, so screw ‘em. I still have a couple of years of high school hockey games I get to attend instead.

Bobby G

May 12th, 2011
8:53 am

All we need is a new owner that cares….takes money to make money..

WpgHockeyFan

May 12th, 2011
8:53 am

Not to call people out here, but the ownership group has been looking for local invesetors to take over the opperations of the hockey team for several years (ASG has just more vocal about it in the last few months). To all of you complaining that the NHL is not investing enough time in to keeping the Thashers in Atlanta, you need to check your facts. There has been more than ample time for a local group to step up and keep the Trashers where they are.

Sherry Taylor

May 12th, 2011
8:55 am

Thanks, jp for the kind words.
I’m not sure that the ASG cares if we threaten to never step foot in Phillips or attend a Hawks game, I think they look at we Thrashers fans as if we don’t matter and besides, in their eyes, there are so few of us, what difference would we make. We don’t matter to them, never have, never will. Makes me want to beat the hoods of their cars into mutilated heaps with a baseball bat, no make that a goalie stick.

Toxostoma Rufum

May 12th, 2011
8:57 am

If ASG dumps The Thrashers, I will never go to any event at Philips as long as they continue to manage the arena. They continue to blame the fans, but we stopped going to games because of their mis- management in protest. Over 40% of the STH did not renew after the horrible 2007-8 season which effectively killed the franchise. Their response was to make things worse, not try to address weaknesses. I still go to about 10 games a year, but I don’t enjoy it. There is no energy in the building and the team is fundamentally flawed. So fine: send them to Winnipeg. It won’t save you, Atlanta Spirit…it will be the start of a massive backlash in the metro against you.

Sherry Taylor

May 12th, 2011
8:57 am

If Bettman doesn’t put as much into us as he has Phoenix, then he has a lot of questions to answer. Just saying, Mr. Commish.

Jason

May 12th, 2011
8:58 am

Does Winnipeg REALLY think their “master plan” with such a tiny, puny baby arena will really work? How the is the average joe EVER going to be able to afford a ticket? The less seats the higher ticket prices will be. I don’t even want to know what it will cost to get in that place. It’s a MINOR LEAGUE arena designed for a MINOR LEAGUE team. Canada has ENOUGH TEAMS. They need to stand down, back off and give it up.

Dana Blankenhorn

May 12th, 2011
8:58 am

The NHL is demanding $25 m to keep the team here for one year. Atlanta’s total parks budget is something like $12 million. The city has just 440,000 people.

If local fans are that desperate to keep a local team in the area, how about you beat on the Gwinnett County Commissioners to put up the $25 m and move the team out there for a year? Gwinnett has twice the population of Atlanta, and most of the area’s hockey fans. They have an arena almost as big as Philips where the team could play.

Bill

May 12th, 2011
8:59 am

Thanks for nothing NHL. Don’t expect my Center Ice money any more.

EA

May 12th, 2011
8:59 am

Of all days, we do not need any Wpg Hockey Fans on this blog until this issue is settled one way or another. No deal could be made until the lawsuit was settled which happened this year.

KLS1

May 12th, 2011
9:00 am

We all knew the ASG would sell their Mother’s organs if it could get them out of the financial hole they have dug. The question always was would the NHL let them dump the team to someone that will move them.

Well it appears with PHX mess the NHL is in the same boat as the ASG and has to cover their A$$ by parceling off the Thrashers to the highest bidder, where ever that may be.

Unbelievable…this hurts my entire family to see them leave.

Stan Drulia

May 12th, 2011
9:01 am

Joe Friday – I absolutely agree with you that this deal has probably been in place for months.. I guess I’m suggesting that the scumbag ASG were scrambling last night to cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s in the final paperwork to fully wash their hands of our team. I’m so angry and dissappointed right now that I want stangle Gary Bettman just for the fun of it.

Chelena

May 12th, 2011
9:02 am

Atlanta Spirit Group has taken what could have been an excellent Hockey Town and didn’t just neglect it, they poisoned it, abused it, and put a strong hold grip on the throat of it to ensure it slow and painful death. It is ASG who should be run out of town. We should sue ASG for funds to create AHF Abused Hockey Fans.

EA

May 12th, 2011
9:02 am

I still want to hold out some hope, but I feel physically ill right now.

canofpeas

May 12th, 2011
9:02 am

as joe f said silence is deafening and reinforcing that our angst is warranted. i always believed bettman would never allow this to come to pass but that is slowly giving way to resignation and now anger. lost hfd as a kid, now this. done with nhl if it comes to pass – how else could a sane person react?

GaVaHokie

May 12th, 2011
9:03 am

These guys stepped over David McDavid to get Phillips, the Hawks and the Thrashers… I wouldn’t let them off the hook for anything. You’re not losing money overall… we know you’re cooking the books… we’re not talking bankruptcy here. There are teams losing far more money than ASG. Atlanta is not the only team for sale either. Why are we being relocated?!

Levenson wants to “stick it” to the fans… he doesn’t want to see the fanbase happy with their wonderful new Balkan owner.

Part of being right, is not giving anyone the chance to prove you wrong… Tell everyone Atlanta can’t support a hockey team, then sell it to Winnipeg so new owners can’t prove them wrong.

Toni

May 12th, 2011
9:04 am

And what’s worse are the rumors of an interested party (confirmed to exist by Jay Clemons of Sports Illustrated) for the entire package, but the ASG won’t grant him an exclusive negotiating window. Unless this part is just a ploy to raise the price that he’ll have to pay, they’re going to ship the team off to TNSE and sell the Hawks and arena to someone else while ignoring the interested party who wants everything to keep here. And the NHL won’t do anything to stop it because they’ll get $60 mil from the relocation fee.

Of course all of this will continue to be ignored and un-reported while lies about how the Thrashers were for sale for years without someone stepping up. The market will be blamed for not supporting the foolishness these owners have been doing for years, and we will never get another team.

If this happens, I will wash my hands of ALL sports. NHL, Braves, Falcons, Hawks, Bulldogs, Yellow Jackets, GSU Panthers, etc. I’m done.

GaVaHokie

May 12th, 2011
9:05 am

The writing was on the wall the second they renegotiated the naming rights to Phillips Arena to not include the Thrashers. Why would you let someone out of a guaranteed multi-million dollar contract?

Brian

May 12th, 2011
9:06 am

I am from Winnipeg. As much as I want a team here, my mind would be seriously blown if Bettman didn’t at least give Atlanta a fair shake. The amount of effort that Bettman has put into keeping the Coyotes in Phoenix is beyond insane.

Bettman

May 12th, 2011
9:06 am

The long and short of it is….. The big difference between Phoenix and Atlanta is that the NHL owns the Coyotes and have millions of dollars at risk VS Atlanta where the NHL has no money involved. This is not an argument about which market is “better”, its all about Bettman’s promise to the owners that he will not lose a dime on the Phoenix sale.

Forget what’s right or wrong, this is just Bettman trying to save his own skin because he stuck his neck way out there in Phoenix.

moriler

May 12th, 2011
9:07 am

Several thoughts:

1) The NHL is not about to “give up” on Atlanta. There hasn’t been any reason for them to comment yet other than “No teams are going to relocate at this time” because _there are no offers on the table_. True North has always been trying to get Phoenix first, not Atlanta.

2) Despite how angry I’d be if the Thrashers did leave because of the incompetence of the ASG, I fully support the plan to _not_ finance a stadium out of city taxes like Glendale did. That is called “being stupid” — fans show their support by purchasing tickets, not by purchasing bonds and then tickets as well.

3) Viv, part of the problem is that you’re tossing stuff out without any timeline. If you talked to Levenson and Gearon two days ago, then quote that, and poitn out . If they aren’t returning calls, quote THAT in the story. If they say anything at all, quote it and quote _when_. It is far more useful, both from our perspective and the city’s, to put pressure on the Seven Clowns by saying “I’ve put calls in this week to each of the members of the ASG; to date, none have returned those calls.” That lets people know both how current any information is, and whose fault it is if we don’t have any current info. In case you hadn’t noticed, LeBrun and some other hockey fools have a tendency to blame the fans when they get on the air, and if the ASG moves the team, I want it to be completely, totally known that it is _their fault_ for thinking they could flip a professional team like a $50k foreclosure purchase. For refusing to actually invest in players, trying instead for short-term success to bolster their personal revenues while paying out millions to lawyers for a silly lawsuit.

The media is the Fourth Estate. You have the voice that we don’t. You are the only ones who can speak for us. It’d be nice if someone actually did occasionally (Schultz’ piece about the ASG being liars is a great example of actually doing it, BTW.)

Jason

May 12th, 2011
9:08 am

I can PERSONALLY tell you Bettman lied. The year of the All Star Game, there was a special meeting with Hockey Dads and also AEPi Brothers (Bettman is a Brother, but he will be disowned after this). I got to meet him. Even back THEN, there were rumors of us moving. I stood up, asked him about the Thrashers moving. He stopped me MID-SENTENCE and said “The Thrashers aren’t going anywhere!” Everyone in the rood stood up and clapped. It’s exactly what we wanted to hear. At that time, I had no choice to believe him. But now, if this does go down, it’s all a lie. I will consider it a lie because, even back then, I’m sure they had to know this was all going down hill.

I am mad because he stepped it up for us then at that moment.

Where is he now?

He is being non-manly, being a coward and a deceiving d-bag. There is zero transparency here and it’s time for the NHL and ASG to be open, honest and give up trying to hide this crap any longer.

I live about ~10 min from the ice forum and will be seeing if anything is going on this afternoon.

GaVaHokie

May 12th, 2011
9:09 am

I concur with Toni… if they sell the Thrashers, I will never grace Phillips Arena again… they might as well sell the whole thing.

Like I’ve been telling other people, I don’t care if Jesus performs The Wall… I’m not returning to Phillips Arena without hockey.

Horsetoothedjackass

May 12th, 2011
9:09 am

Moving the Thrashers to the Arena @ Gwinnett Center would not happen, as the current capacity does not meet NHL standards.

Atlanta Spirit lied to not only the fans, but also to the NHL, its’ executives, the other owners in the league, the local business community as well as the state and local government. They deceived everyone into thinking that they were committed to the Thrashers when the reality was they were trying to sell them before the ink was dry on the paperwork.

If the team is sold and moved, I’ll never set foot into Philips Arena again. If they are sold, I hope ASG goes bankrupt.

Bluestreak

May 12th, 2011
9:10 am

WpgHockeyFan, while they have been trying to sell the team for a while, the legal issues between the owners prevented anything from happening. So, no, they have not had years to do it. And if the NHL fought so hard to keep Phoenix, after crappy management and bankrupcy, then they should do the same for a team that had no support from their current ownership.

I want Winnipeg to have a team. I always followed the Jets back then. But I don’t want to lose my team either. Bettman should give you an expansion team. Then both fanbases win.

Keep The Thrashers - Sale Made Months Ago?

May 12th, 2011
9:10 am

While this is still in rumor stage, it is fair to ask yourself the questions posed here – we hope the media asks the NHL and ASG these questions:

http://www.keepthethrashers.com/winnipeg.html

GaVaHokie

May 12th, 2011
9:11 am

Bettman wants to prop up another Canadian market before the NHL TV rights are up for grabs in Canada… that’s why this is all happening so quickly without regards to the fans.

Bobby G

May 12th, 2011
9:12 am

Its going to make me even more sick when all these core young players hoist the cup in 1-4 years….Thats when I will be most upset…the future is so bright for this team.

Joe Friday

May 12th, 2011
9:14 am

You know who killed hockey in Atlanta? Donny Wad and those naive fans in the early years that supported him for building it the “right way” . . . backlash should have started long before ASG ever got their mitts on the team

Bettman

May 12th, 2011
9:15 am

I’m not defending Bettman’s actions, so open it up for comments.

Jason says “Where is he now? ”

OK fine… given you right to say, what exactly would you like Bettman to do?

kracker

May 12th, 2011
9:17 am

Indeed…it sounds like this may really be the last chance to comment.

However, I am hoping Thomas Magnum has it right and the league is silent b/c this is just another in a series of rumors.

sisu

May 12th, 2011
9:17 am

Sad times, while everyone is very emotional the fact remains that none of us know the end result yet. Has the owners forgotten when they bought all of this that the Thrashers had good crowds while the Hawks struggled? They took a team making money and invested that into the bb team…bad business!

clark kent

May 12th, 2011
9:18 am

ASG is nothing but a bunch of cowards regardless of what they do with all 3 entities.

Speak with your wallets; these lowlifes deserve no money from Atlanta citizens.

Toni

May 12th, 2011
9:19 am

I don’t think anyone expects Bettman to do much at this point, but he can make a “we will do everything in our power to keep NHL hockey in Atlanta” statement at the very least. We have heard nothing specific at this point. The most that he’s said is that the rumors about Winnipeg are false (of course this was before the Phoenix vote). It seems like the NHL isn’t going to fight for us at all.