Updated: Talks continue, fans still planning to attend Thrashers’ select-a-seat event

By Chris Vivlamore and Tim Tucker

It may be the 11th hour, but some Atlanta hockey fans are clinging to hope.

With the Atlanta Spirit ownership group deep into negotiations to sell the Thrashers to True North Sports and Entertainment, which would move the franchise to Winnipeg, current and prospective season-ticket holders plan to attend a select-a-seat event here Saturday.

“Our select-a-seat event will take place as planned at Philips Arena,” Thrashers president Don Waddell said Friday.

Team officials and owners declined to comment on the negotiations with the Winnipeg group.

One person familiar with the negotiations, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the fluid and sensitive situation, said no agreement had been reached as of Friday afternoon but that talks and progress continued. The person said complex issues were being hammered out and that it’s difficult to predict when a deal might be completed.

Talks also continued with a prospective buyer willing to keep the team in Atlanta, but indications were that the sale to the Winnipeg group could happen as early as next week.

The Canadian Press reported that Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz said Friday that although nothing is signed, sealed or delivered yet, there is an understanding the relocation “is going to happen” and it is just “a matter of time” before a deal is announced.

The Thrashers organization continues to operate. In fact, at least one new season ticket was sold Friday. The select-a-seat event will be run by ticket representatives with no team executives, coaches or players in attendance. The event will  coincide with a gathering of Thrashers fans at the gulch area outside the arena.

For some, the seat event will be a chance to show support.

“We are going about it like business as usual in hopes there is still a season,” said Charlie Clarke. “It seems like the writing is on the wall, but you look at other situations like in Sacramento with the [NBA’s] Kings. The fan base thought it was over. and something happened to keep the team.

“There is no reason now not to go. I know it’s a bit of a tease, but I’m holding out that .001 percent chance.”

Others see it as an opportunity to walk down memory lane.

“I’ll be going to the event, but I’m treating it at it as if I’m going to a funeral,” said Brett Lang, who described himself as a season-ticket holder since Day One. “I will go sit in the seats that my friends, family, and I enjoyed for the 11 seasons, quietly reflect on the good times, and say farewell just like a funeral.”

For one Thrashers fan, the chances of losing the team were enough to make him change his plans to attend the season- ticket event. Darren Schuster had planned to attend as a show of support.

“When I think about how much I put into this team and how much I got back, it’s pathetic,” Schuster said. “You can’t blame the fans. When the team was spending money and winning, the fans showed up.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was informed of the fan gathering on his weekly call-in radio show, broadcast Thursday night on satellite radio and the Internet, by a Thrashers fan.

“It will be interesting to see how many people show up at the rally on Saturday,” Bettman said.

The caller also told Bettman that the Thrashers drew impressive crowds in their first five seasons and attributed recent attendance problems to ownership that has not put a competitive team on the ice.

“I understand that there may be dissatisfaction there, but demonstrating your dissatisfaction by not going to games is an interesting strategy,” Bettman said. “It’s your absolute right. But if it becomes a turnoff for anybody who might want to buy the franchise, the long-term consequences could be severe.”

Bettman vigorously denied that a deal is done to move the Thrashers. “I can tell you that with certainty,” he said. But he did not rule out the possibility and telegraphed what likely will be the NHL’s position if relocation occurs: that no qualified buyer was willing to own and operate the team in Atlanta.

“The decision as to whether or not to move a club doesn’t come out of looking at two markets and saying, ‘This market would be better than that market,’” Bettman said. “We try to keep our clubs where they are. And if it is ultimately determined that a club has to move, generally the reason . . . is because nobody wants to own a team there anymore, nobody wants to fund the losses.”

The Thrashers’ owners have been seeking a buyer or investors for two years, and have said since February that they face a “sense of urgency” to shed the team’s operating losses, one way or another.  The owners have contended in court documents that the team has lost $130 million since 2005.

“The key to this may be, in the final analysis, whether or not somebody wants to own the team in Atlanta,” Bettman said. “In the absence of either the current ownership group continuing to own and operate or somebody stepping forward who wants to buy the club, that becomes the situation that concerns us or any sports league.

“We’ll only leave a market … if we have to,” Bettman said.

Making a deal to sell, let alone relocate, a team is a complex process involving the buyer, the seller and the NHL, each represented by groups of  lawyers and financial advisors.

Atlanta Spirit and True North would have to complete a purchase-and-sale agreement. True North and the NHL would have to complete an “undertaking” agreement, spelling out the buyer’s commitments to the league. The parties would have to agree on how much of the money paid by True North would go to the NHL, rather than to the Spirit, as a relocation fee.

It is believed True North would pay as much as $170 million for the team, with $60 million going to the NHL and $110 million to the Spirit.

Ultimately, the NHL Board of Governors, which consists of one representative from each team, would have to vote to ratify a sale and relocation. A 75-percent vote is required to approve a new owner, and a majority vote is required to approve a relocation.

Here’s an indication of the complexities involved: When the Atlanta Spirit bought the Hawks and Thrashers in 2004, each member of the then-new ownership group had to sign his name 372 times on documents that filled six binders, each about six inches thick.

*** Thanks  to all the fans who responded to my request and those I talked to but couldn’t fit into the story. I appreciate your help and your passion.

553 comments Add your comment

"Blue"-land

May 20th, 2011
2:04 pm

Man, this sucks…..can’t believe it’s really happening. My kid just started playing jr hockey at the IceForum, he’ll be crushed. Oh well, there’s always the Gladiators….but still…

[...] Journal Constitution:  Fans still planning to attend Thrashers’ select-a-seat event.  I have a lot of respect for the fans of the Thrashers.  As we discussed with Thrashers Goalie [...]

Puck Like A Porn Star

May 20th, 2011
2:06 pm

zak

May 20th, 2011
2:07 pm

newsflash atlanta: you have to support a team to keep a team.

Sherry Taylor

May 20th, 2011
2:10 pm

News flash Zak, there are fans that did support the team. Didn’t you read the article, you . . . jackhammer? it’s about the owners not being able to pay the bills not about the fans not coming out. Look at the numbers of tickets sold for games, we were selling more tickets that some of the ‘traditional markets.’

Joe Friday

May 20th, 2011
2:14 pm

“Our select-a-seat event will take place as planned at Philips Arena,” Thrashers president Don Waddell said.”

“The select-a-seat event will be run by ticket representatives with no team executives, coaches or players in attendance.”

Their gall is appalling. Waddell should be ashamed of himself.

Erf

May 20th, 2011
2:15 pm

@ Zak… yet, the Islanders are still chugging along. Even with two other teams in the NYC area and one upstate.

Ryan

May 20th, 2011
2:16 pm

I wish the Thrashers would stay in Atlanta! I was looking forward to moving back to the area and getting back into going to their games. I hope the NHL will return to Atlanta in the near future! http://faganaround.tumblr.com/post/5669205146/atlanta-thrashers-moving-to-winnipeg

litz

May 20th, 2011
2:18 pm

I’d be there (and at the Gulch gathering too), but a graduating nephew takes precedence.

(already renewed the ST, anyways, back during the season)

GaVaHokie

May 20th, 2011
2:20 pm

I’ve said it a hundred times… complain about ownership all you want, but it comes down to this man and this opinion…

“I understand that there may be dissatisfaction there, but demonstrating your dissatisfaction by not going to games is an interesting strategy,” Bettman said. “It’s your absolute right. But if it becomes a turnoff for anybody who might want to buy the franchise, the long-term consequences could be severe.”

Russ

May 20th, 2011
2:21 pm

It’s over and done. What’s the point?

bananahead

May 20th, 2011
2:22 pm

newsflash zak – we supported the team, but could not support the owners anymore. We supported the team by letting it be known that we expected more from the owners. Would you continue to go to your favorite restaurant to eat your favorite foods if the owners stopped spending money on ingredients, pest control, wait staff, chefs, or management?

GaVaHokie

May 20th, 2011
2:24 pm

bananahead… no I wouldn’t, and that restaurant would shut down.

Kovy's Agent

May 20th, 2011
2:24 pm

Dear Winnipeg, you might want to conduct some sort of exorcism to rid your new team of the curse that ails it. Long-time fans here know the litany of events that have transpired over the years and can fill you in if necessary. In all my years I’ve never seen such a star-crossed fanchise that even though expectations were never very high always failed to live up to our modest hopes. Here’s hoping a change of venue helps but I have my doubts.

Chris

May 20th, 2011
2:26 pm

Sherry, support is a relative term. Yes there are some loyal fans in Altlanta, but the fact is that the average attendance per game has been dropping steadily for the last 7 years and the Thrashers have ranked at near the bottom in that category for a long time. When you have announced attendances that are approximately 6,000 below capacity every game, you are in big trouble. Because we all know that those announced attendances are already a heavily inflated number in markets such as the Atlanta and Florida and Columbus to name a few.

Thoughts

May 20th, 2011
2:28 pm

Very sad day….
The deal is all but done

PoweRForgeD

May 20th, 2011
2:33 pm

I hope the turnout for this event draws more people here then winnipeg did last night at portage and main. Nearly 1000 people flooded portage and main lastnight, and that was just because of the rumor a deal was done.

gcs

May 20th, 2011
2:33 pm

I guess the silver lining in all this is that Don Waddell is out of our lives and has to go live in Winnipeg.

.

PoweRForgeD

May 20th, 2011
2:37 pm

I don’t think DW will be going, according to some comments, blogs, newspapers. He’s not wanted there either.

Maybe WPG is smarter then we give them credit for

PMC

May 20th, 2011
2:38 pm

Bring a wrench, and take that freaking seat with you. Steal anything that ain’t bolted down!

Winnipeg = Poverty

May 20th, 2011
2:42 pm

@PoweRForgeD Nearly 1000 people, I bet they had a crowd like that in downtown Winnipeg since the farm show ended at the MTS Centre.

Russ

May 20th, 2011
2:47 pm

There’s no need to slag us Winnipeggers. We do feel bad that someone has to lose a team for us to get one. And believe me, we lost one in 1996 and the loyal fans among us know exactly how crappy it feels. I certainly don’t wish anyone in Atlanta any ill will. In a perfect world we would have got an expansion team and you wouldn’t have had to lose yours.

hip czech

May 20th, 2011
2:48 pm

Chris, think the attendance dropping each year has ANYTHING to do with coinciding with the ASG buying the team in 2004? You think?

As has been stated, even ‘traditional markets’ have low attendance with bad product. See Buffalo, Boston, Chicago, Colorado, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Washington…not to mention the Islanders and Devils.

Why do Atlanta fans get hammered on when they do what every other market does?

Eileen

May 20th, 2011
2:50 pm

I posted this on Rawhide’s blog. It seems our old friend Ben Eager has some negative things to say about us. He said the team has been here too long and the city is not interested. I guess in his short time here, he didn’t pick up on the ownership situation due to too many hits in the head.

PoweRForgeD

May 20th, 2011
2:57 pm

@winnipeg=poverty. No hard feelings bro. I understand.

AGTFan

May 20th, 2011
2:59 pm

I live about at the mid-point between Chicago and St Louis. I can drive a few hours to either city to see the NHL. If the NHL turns it’s back on the city of Atlanta, I turn my back on the NHL. And once I’m gone, I’m gone for good. I like Hockey. I can and will go to any number of minor league and college games. I’m DONE with the NHL. All that talk about being committed to the US markets is just so much BS. Bettman is such a liar and a hypocrit. He doesn’t care about Hockey in the US. Let them go to Canada and let the NHL return to being a Canadian sports league.

heyo

May 20th, 2011
3:05 pm

Do Atlanta ‘youts’ also commit mob violence when hockey teams leave town?

007

May 20th, 2011
3:06 pm

Eileen – dont take anything Eager says seriously. Look at his last game and you’ll know he suffers from too many head injuries.
As for fans, sorry you have to face what Wpg faced in 90’s. It sucks and hurts!!

Section 303

May 20th, 2011
3:07 pm

Sorry, Thrasher fans.

I’m a Hawks season ticket holder and not that big of a hockey fan. But, I went to 2 or 3 Thrashers games every year. I enjoyed them and the Tharshers were my favorite NHL team.

I know a lot of you invested yourselfs in the team. Sorry it is ending like this. It’s not fair. The Atlanta Spirit is a clown organization. They should be run out of this town on a rail.

Betting not one member of the Spirit has the b@lls to show at tomorrow’s rally and explain the situation. Even if only one person shows, someone from the Spirit should show to explain themselves.

Hal Jordan

May 20th, 2011
3:09 pm

In Brightest Day,

In Blackest ‘Hood,

The Atlanta Spirit Group

Is Up to No Good.

Let Those Who Support

Bruce Levenson’s Sad Plight,

Beware My Power,

Green Lantern’s Light.

007

May 20th, 2011
3:17 pm

On the bright side – I’m being told the world is ending on May 21 6:00pm, so the pain should be short lived in Atlanta, and Wpg will never know what might have been.

Hal Jordan

May 20th, 2011
3:21 pm

In Brightest Day,

In Deepest Snow,

To One Last Select-A-Seat,

My Sad Heart Will Go.

I Choose The Seat of Bruce Levenson,

That Liar and Ho.

I’ll Make for It a Broken Broom Handle

And a Can of Crisco.

cl

May 20th, 2011
3:40 pm

Do we have any allies with the other team’s BOG reps? Is there anybody that may vote in our favor?

AtLFanatic

May 20th, 2011
3:44 pm

I find it interesting that Dudley played for Winnipeg….I wonder how he feels about all of this…..Conspiracy?…….Long Live the Atlanta Thrashers!!!!

Patrick

May 20th, 2011
3:50 pm

So frustrating. Ted needs to buy the Thrashers, keep the team in the Atl!

glovesave29

May 20th, 2011
3:55 pm

Forget the rally – the team is GONE. All it’s going to do is be media fodder for the Canadian media, and give the ASG an opportunity to point out no one cares. You are better off spending time at the rally to save the NASL Atlanta Chiefs, or the groups trying to keep Atlanta Fulton County Stadium and / or the Omni from being razed.

Let’s take our hockey money over to the Glads and try to get them to draw 10K this season…perhaps get them to move up to the AHL in time.

I think I will go to the eventual equipment sale the team will certainly hold. Gonna go buy thousands of dollars of stuff using checks from an account I closed decades ago. What judge would convict me? They lie. I lie.

T.J.

May 20th, 2011
4:00 pm

All of this nonsense has to be just an extreme form of leverage/pressure on the part of the league to force the A$$hole Sellout Group to sell to a “local” buyer, right? Right?!

Ugh. What an absolute farce all the way around.

Eric

May 20th, 2011
4:04 pm

Is the fact that the Thrashers are not currently (Fri 4pm) mentioned at all on ajc’s home page a proper reflection of the general attitude of Atlantans?

is it cold in Canada? Should I wear a jacket?

May 20th, 2011
4:04 pm

Ben Eager was the beginning of the end for this franchise here! I was at the Maple Leafs game in Jan when he went apesh!t crazy (just like last night) and tried to kill Colby Armstrong….We left early when the score was something like 9-1.

This team NEVER RECOVERED from that single player’s effect on the team psyche for the rest of the season. Ben Eager needs psychiatric help! He has no right to trash talk the team he helped destroy….

Billsen

May 20th, 2011
4:05 pm

Despite the rosy picture most of the Winnipeggers paint of the past, the best Jets NHL attendance from 79-96 was only 87.3% capacity (13.592 in the 86-87 season). The Jets only averaged over 13,000 fans 9 times in 17 seasons which isn’t much better than what Atlanta has done.

Billsen

May 20th, 2011
4:10 pm

@Glovesave29 – “The men who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed.” -Lloyd Jones.

Go ahead, stay home, do nothing. Brilliant plan – NOT.

thrasherdawg

May 20th, 2011
4:10 pm

CHRIS VIVLAMORE please take the following and see if you can get any traction.

I think we could get 7000 fans and /or season ticket holders to invest in a private fund to purchase the team. The investment would be $15,000.00, thus 105 million dollars. If each investor bought 80% percent of the games at a mean number of 3 tickets per, there would only be an additional 4000 tickets or so, per game, to be sold to the public. Every game would be a sell-out thus an automatic ROI (return on investment) to the investors of 3 to 4 years. Everyone has skin in the game. Could such a proposal be brought before the current ownership? Will they stay in the game to allow this to work?

glovesave29

May 20th, 2011
4:11 pm

Billsen – using that logic, I need to leave now to keep the Titanic from sinking.

Joe Friday

May 20th, 2011
4:12 pm

glovesave gets it.

Come on, people. I guess reality will sink in eventually, but when it does, everyone needs to channel their energy into an effective effort to exact a price from Levenson, Gearon, Seydel, et al. They cannot be allowed to get away with this. We need to know what businesses they own, and out them as the scum they are, and keep pressing the issue so they pay for what they’ve done. The Hawks need to be boycotted, Philips Arena needs to be boycotted, en masse.

And the NHL is just as culpable. They have had this orchestrated for months. I feared it the day Bill Daly ran his mount on Winnipeg radio last fall, this fix has been in. There was no search for a local buyer, anyone that popped up was told they had to pay rent to the Spirit Squad and that was unsustainable as a business model. You have to have or share arena rights.

This was a fix from Day 1 and it was on the NHL’s part, I’m sure the Spirit Squad would have been fine selling the Thrashers along with the arena, but it’s the NHL who orchestrated this.

If you continue to support the NHL after this, then PT Barnum was right

A Final Kick In The Teeth

May 20th, 2011
4:12 pm

I’ve said it before, and here it is again:

The planned “Rally” should be turned into a THRASHERS PARAPHERNALIA BURNING DEMONSTRATION to show the World that we’re tired of being sh!t upon by a bunch of numbnuts with more money than brains (ASG) and the legalized mobsters running the NHL.

Crying into your beer for the cameras over a situation that was planned and RESOLVED many months ago just makes everyone involved look like a bunch of pathetic losers….Like you can’t figure out for yourselves that we were “had” long ago, but nobody had the heart to tell us so. If you really want to make a statement, paint everyone’s @ss cheeks with a different letter, stand in line and drop trou for the cameras spelling out:

N H L & A S G C A N K I S S O U R A S S E S !!!

That’s how you make your voices heard…….Not by being a powerless puppet for Gary Bettman.

Joe Friday

May 20th, 2011
4:16 pm

A Final Kick in The Teeth gets it . . . please if you go down there tomorrow, follow his/her advice, and do it en masse, or you’ll be fodder in perpetuity . . .

Manitoba Vivlamore

May 20th, 2011
4:16 pm

Ted Turner does not need to buy the Thrashers, he’s a glorified mummy, jesus..did you see his interview..he either ate a bottle of vicodin or he really did forget what the Thrashers were. I’d dance in the streets if he spent his money, but the guy is a space cadet these days. It’s sad that this city is losing NHL hockey again, for the last time. Like most I’ll find it hard to support the NHL, they’ve had a hand in this as well, don’t buy that “Bettman is hurting the ASG” crap..how does Bettman getting more money help the team stay? It doesn’t, his pockets get fatter, the ASG still gets more money than most of us who work for a living will ever see and our team flys to a frozen manure pond with some of the most vile and classless fans i’ve had the pleasure of watching my words sail over the heads of.

Eric, these blogs have never even had this many comments, I always change monikers..but I’d say 80% of the traffic here is new. The articles being churned out certainly are, normally it’s Viv and Rawhide. Not Schultz and Bradley.

KLS1

May 20th, 2011
4:22 pm

I would buy a pair of season tix tomorrow if I knew the team would be here and there would be a new owner.

But it is really hard to engage with this group as it is no matter how much I love this team.

Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice…

Darkstar

May 20th, 2011
4:28 pm

ASG the worst thing to go thru Atlanta since Sherman