Passion For Atlanta’s Hockey History Is Still Aflame – Pt. I

As you all know, I’ve coordinated a number of events at TJ’s on Holcomb Bridge Road. It’s become my personal Thrashers Viewing Party establishment of choice and we’ll be coordinating several such gatherings there during the course of the upcoming season. Lately, we’ve gathered there to enjoy playoff games…and shall do so again this coming Sunday afternoon to take in some Conference Finals action.

I met up with TJ’s owner Tim Ecclestone last week to discuss some the history of hockey in Atlanta as well as the perceived lack of interaction between the current NHL franchise and those who are affiliated with the old Atlanta Flames.

Ecclestone was drafted by the Rangers in 1967, he was then traded to St. Louis during the ’68 expansion. He played in three Stanley Cup Finals with the Blues before spending time in Detroit and Toronto. Then he came to Atlanta in 1974 where he played for the Flames and also became an assistant coach. When the franchise moved to Calgary in 1980, Tim was offered a chance to move with them… Cliff Fletcher telling him that he would be head coach there, or with some NHL club, within two years.

After much thought and consideration to the idea of relocating his family and leaving the business he had here, he decided to remain in Atlanta and has been here ever since. He’s a member of Atlanta’s chapter of the NHL’s alumni group, along with a handful of other former Flames…Tom Lysiak, Eric Vail, Dan Bouchard, Willi Plett… and players from other teams.

In the late 90’s, Tim and the group were excited to learn that the league had awarded the city of Atlanta with another franchise and they availed themselves to help promote the new team. And in the beginning, that is exactly the relationship shared between the alumni group and the new organization.

“The Thrashers came aboard”, Tim stated, “There was Harvey Schiller and his son Derek, and their marketing team. They called us every week to go out there to different places…promoting the team…signing autographs…and try to drum up season tickets”.

These guys were happy to do it too. The sport does have a rich history, contrary to what some northeast hockey elitists may think, and Ecclestone and his former teammates knew that they could be a big help in marketing the team. After all, as he puts it, the Flames didn’t leave town two decades prior due to a lack of interest in the area.

”This city here has a love affair with the Flames…we put 15,000 down there every night. People think it failed…it didn’t fail. Mr. Cousins had a business decision to make”. Continuing, “We had 18,000 for playoff games and the Omni was rocking…people loved the Flames”!

However…as the inaugural season in 1999 neared, the alumni group suddenly found themselves on the outside looking in.

Ecclestone continued, “They basically brought us in, then kicked us out…I hate to say ‘they used us’, but it was almost like that”.

The purpose was served, so to speak?

“Yeah, you could say it was kinda like that”.

So, what change? Who possibly might have made the decision to place the history of the sport at arms length from the current NHL team?

Ecclestone answered by citing Waddell’s statements during the All Star Game held here two seasons ago. “He said that the gap was far too big between the teams. So we knew we didn’t have his support…Don Waddell has a lot of say-so down there”.

“However”, he added, “It’s really an issue with ownership.”

And a team’s decision to take advantage of the willingness of former players to help…even if they played for a franchise that had been relocated…can be very prudent. Case in point, the Minnesota Wild.

As Tim explains, “The Wild owners embraced the players of the past…North Stars or anyone who played in the league. They brought them in, sat them down and said ‘we want you to be a marketing arm for us. We want you to go out there and be supportive…sign autographs…we want you to be a part of us’”.

“That’s what they did in Minnesota”, he said, “Their alumni is very active in the community”.

Tim says he’s been frustrated with the current ownership’s unwillingness to work with the alumni group though he’s tried to contact them regarding such. Michael Gearon, he says, has been polite enough to return his contacts, but not so Bruce Levenson.

Regardless, Ecclestone and the alumni group continued to support hockey in the community by holding celebrity golf tournaments to raise funds for youth hockey. “We gave money to kids who could make the travel team but didn’t have enough money to go on the travel team…that made us feel good”.

How much money could be raised?

“$15,000 a year…sometimes more. And we gave that to the Cooler…The MIC…minor league hockey…scholarship money…we did this on our own”.

When I asked if he’s still personally active in pursuing any partnership with the Thrashers…to be that link to the city’s hockey roots…he simply said no, and here’s why.

“There was this story in the paper about Darren Eliot taking over promoting youth hockey in the area”. Which was fine and good with Tim and the rest of the guys as they would have been happy to assist him in such endeavors.

“But there was this night down there at Philips Arena when the Calgary Flames were in town playing. There were hundreds of red Flames jerseys, mostly Atlanta Flames jerseys, in the stands…which makes us feel good, we always like to be remembered”. He goes on, “J.P. Dellacamera comments about it and says…’Ya know, I don’t see too many of the old guys around’”.

“Eliot then says, ‘All I know is the Atlanta Spirit and the Atlanta Thrashers down here have done everything they can do to get these guys involved…but they just don’t seem to want to get involved”.

And what was your reaction to that statement, Tim?

“He made that statement”, he replied, “…you’ve got a situation where we’ve busted our butts to raise money in this city for youth hockey…an alumnus in Darren that publicly states we don’t seem to care… and you’ve got a GM that has no interest in us…and an ownership that won’t return our calls. It was disappointing”.

He then stated, “The organization has been very generous to us in regards to providing tickets for alumni, and we are appreciative of that…but I firmly believe that we could be a great service to them in their marketing efforts and promoting the NHL product in the community”.

Ecclestone strongly feels that he and the other members of the alumni group can indeed be a bridge to Atlanta’s hockey past.

“The history of hockey in Atlanta…you can’t just sweep it under the carpet. It’s still there”.

In part two of my discussion with Tim, he shares with us his thoughts on the Thrashers lack of a team “identity” and how it possibly could have been constructed…his attempt to sponsor an Atlanta Hockey History area at Philips Arena…and about two men that were also considered for the GM job eleven years ago, Cliff Fletcher and Brian Burke.

222 comments Add your comment

Tom

May 11th, 2009
6:17 pm

Cliff Fletcher and Brian Burke.

What could have been.

Having sons very active in inline youth hockey, it would be a thrill for them to meet and learn from the NHL alumni. This is a bridge that needs to be built for the hockey family in Atlanta.

Great post Rawhide!

Eileen

May 11th, 2009
6:49 pm

I have met so many Flames fans at the Thrashers games. I still have my Flames jersey from high school. It is such a shame not to take advantage of the former Flames players who chose to stay in our great city. I love it when the players from the past show up at events in other hockey cities. Why does it always feel like we are begging to be taken seriously as a city who would love a successful hockey team? On another note, my daughter commented to me that she has never seen Ilya with a beard like the one he is sporting in the picture of the Russian championship team. I reminded her that unfortunately we only got to the whiskers stage ONCE in the playoffs!

BG33Brown

May 11th, 2009
6:59 pm

Wow, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised but I am. Just another embarassing aspect of our “ownership group.” What a great article. One of your best ever!

Krust

May 11th, 2009
7:18 pm

Well this reminds me of a very funny insident at Phillips Club section a couple of years ago. My Dad and I are talking to Eric Vail and Don Waddell walks by and the Train goes ” hey Don if you don’t get some good players on this team my friend Harald (my dad) going to beat you over the head with his cane” Vail has a wicked sense of humor. Oh well the Spirit are wasting a good thing. The former players should be involved.

LAC

May 11th, 2009
7:25 pm

Sure wish BOOM-BOOM was still with us !!!! He was a REAL TREASURE for sure and supported Atlanta, living here until his death…

The Flames players SHOULD be involved here… But with Atlanta STUPID Group as owners, well….

Then why won’t don waddell call in Cliff Fletcher for some GM 101…
If anyone needed it is worthless lying waddell ! Cliff could work one day a year for an hour and do more than waddell has in his 10 here…

kracker

May 11th, 2009
7:45 pm

Great Part I article, Bill! It’s a shame, though, that you have to write it. Why there isn’t a room or a wall in Philiups Arena dedicated to the Flames…well, I don’t know why, it makes no sense. They should have it all covered somewhere, the Flames and somethng about the Knights, too.

Everyone wants Atlanta to be taken seriously as a city with some hockey tradition and history but these owners seem to want everyone to believe that hockey in this city began in 1999. That’s so silly! As far as I know, the only display of the old Atlanta hockey tradition at Philips Arena is when fans yell KNIGHTS during the National Anthem.

Sage of Bluesland

May 11th, 2009
7:46 pm

Great, great article….As a kid, I loved going to the Flames games and I wish we could have kept the name/logo (the historical backdrop is simply wonderful and the name is a ‘cool’ one anyway)…”Thrashers” as a name is pretty unremarkable–and a bit silly, but hey, what do I know…

This ownership group–and generally all they employ–are utterly worthless. Elliot is nothing but a clown, the way he bends over for that bumbling, blustering idiot Waddell.

When will you all learn what effects REAL change??? I’ve given you the answer time and again, and yet you still don’t learn???

CUT THE MONEY AND SEE HOW FAST SOMETHING GETS CHANGED.

(Will you EVER learn? I hope so–before it’s too late, anyway…)

R. Stroz

May 11th, 2009
10:36 pm

I’ve been waiting for the truth to come out for years.

That’s right, Atlanta supported a hockey team when the city was a third of its current size and had virtually no northern transplants.

Just imagine if Waddell put a decent product on the ice like Fletcher did. The Flames made the playoffs 6 out of 8 years.

Many thanks to Rawhide and Tim Ecclestone for sharing an accurate account of hockey history in Atlanta.

Brendan

May 11th, 2009
10:37 pm

Excellent item, Rawhide. I would say something, but you left me nothing to add. Missed opportunities is the phrase that best describes what Atlanta passed over when hockey returned to the city.

Shifting gears, how AMAZING is this game of ours? I hope people have been watching this Caps-Pens series. A quick recap, Washington takes both games at home to begin the series. Then, with a GIGANTIC opportunity to put a stranglehold on the series, Game Three goes into overtime. It was won by Pittsbugh, on a goal by Kris Letang. Turning point in the series??? Maybe. The Penguins go on to hold serve at home. Series tied, 2-2. Game Five, in Washington, goes into overtime, where it is won on a PPG by Evgeni Malkin. With the series now, 3-2, in favor of Pittsburgh, that Game Three overtime winner now, INDEED, looking like the turning point of the series. Pittsburgh comes home to the Mellon Arena to salt it away. Game Six is tied, 1-1, when the Caps get a latter half of the 2nd period lead. It appears that the Caps will hold the lead, going into the 3rd period, but instead, a goal with 33 seconds left ties it up, 2-2. So now, the Capitals are 20 minutes away from ELIMINATION.

Sure enough, the Penguins score first in the third period, to take a 3-2 lead. Over? Did anyone say OVER??? Was it OVER when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? (Germans???) Washington pops in two goals in LESS THAN A MINUTE to take a 4-3 lead. Right about the time that the pundits are calling the “time of death” for Pittsburgh, and the questioning of Sidney Crosby in the series, #87 scores an ENORMOUS game-tying goal, fairly late in the 3rd period. Sorry folks, but that’s “clutch play.” I know we don’t like to talk about Crosby in a positive light, but that was HUGE.

Momentum swing?? Series over?? Start the party in Pittsburgh?? Well, they gotta get an overtime winner, first. Nobody told David Steckel, of the Washington Capitals, that the party was on, because he scored to extend the series. That’s right. It’s a final. 5-4, in overtime. We will have Game Seven. Best time of the year.

Ya know what really makes it so good? There are NO EXCUSES NOW. There’s only results. Like it should be. It’s … you either score or you ARE eliminated. There’s no room for excuse-making. It’s just … get out there … and DO IT. Way to go, Capitals. Just when it looks like the Capitals are finished, they pulled it out. Historically, teams that get out to a 2-0 series lead … win the series. And if that happens, it won’t matter what went wrong in games 3, 4 and 5. Guess what the NHL gives for three (3) playoff wins? Actually, it’s a fruit basket. Who knew? It comes with a card. The card reads, “If you played better, you would have won. Better luck next year. Warm Regards, Commish Bettman.”

By the way, Chicago, at HOME, got out to a 3-1 lead, but Vancouver has scored twice, while FACING ELIMINATION, to tie the game. It’s 3-3, late in the 2nd period. That’s a great series, too. What BEATS this time of year???

B. Thenet

May 11th, 2009
11:08 pm

It is not just former Flames.

10 years into the Thrashers franchise, and I don’t think a single former Thrashers player is part of the org. Odgers was the radio color guy for a while, but not one former Thrasher in management, public relations, or anything.

Brendan

May 11th, 2009
11:31 pm

B.Thenet, you’d think Ray Ferraro, a former Captain, would have been given some opportunity with the franchise. Scott Mellanby offered, or he says, to stay and work “for peanuts,” in a front office type job.

LAC

May 11th, 2009
11:32 pm

Great artical Bill, I totally agree with the others, Sage & Stroz, two who know what is best for hockey here.

Damn shame we have there worthless owners who care nothing about the sport of hockey. These owners LIE like nobody I have ever seen in my life.

I just wish drunk levenson, LIAR snydel and worthless wimp geron would all go to the top of Philips Arena and jump off, never to be seen or heard from ever again !!!!!! Just sweep up their bodies like cow $hit
and just THROW them out with the trash ! How GREAT would that be !!!!!!

Brendan

May 11th, 2009
11:38 pm

What an amazing game out in Chicago. Hawks got up, 3-1, but squandered it. The Canucks climbed back to a 4-3 lead. Hawks tied it, 4-4. Vancouver went up, 5-4. Hawks tied it, 5-5. Then Toews and Kane completed their legacies. Kane had a hat trick. It’s not over yet. But it’s 7-5.

I repeat, SEVVVVEN to FIIIIVE. Hard to believe that netminders the caliber of Khabibulin and Luongo would give up so many goals in the MOST IMPORTANT GAME of their respective seasons. Hey, Vancouver got amazing performances from the Sedins and Mats Sundin. I thought, at various portion of this game, that the Canucks had it, and would be going back to Vancouver for Game Seven.

StateBird

May 11th, 2009
11:38 pm

Good night Canada. The last Great North hope goes down again.

Brendan

May 11th, 2009
11:40 pm

Less than a minute to go now. Chicago 7, Vancouver 5. The Canucks fired GM Dave Nonis because he didn’t advance the team into the Conference Finals. It appears that Mike Gillis, the new GM, will likewise fail to meet that objective. So, where does Vancouver go from here??

Midfield

May 11th, 2009
11:53 pm

By the way, I remember Semin causing all kinds of indignation by putting Kane over Crosby. Did you see Kane tonight? I’m glad I did.

Brendan

May 11th, 2009
11:57 pm

This is amazing to watch. Look at these Chicago Blackhawk fans at the United Center. That’s a hockey town, for sure. It was a long time coming. But when the cancer was removed, and the light of the sun shone upon NEW OWNERSHIP direction in Chicago, look at the results? They’re making PUUUUUUURE PROFIT called “playoff money.” In October, it was far from certain that Chicago would be among the playoff field. They got in, with solid defense and goaltending, at the #4 spot. Now look at them. Their owner is guaranteed another $4 million in pure profit, when they host two more home games in the Conference Finals. It didn’t hurt that, from #5 in the lottery draft, Chicago won and got to select Patrick Kane. But they also drafted Toews, 3rd overall. In 2005, they took Jack Skille 7th overall. They got Cam Barker, #3 overall, in 2004. With their 2nd round picks, Chicago selected Dave Bolland, Bryan Bickell, and Ryan Garlock. In 2003, Chicago took Corey Seabrook, 14th overall. They took Corey Crawford 52nd overall. In 2002, Chicago took Anton Babchuk 21st overall, with Duncan Keith, 54th overall. At pick #156, Chicago took James Wisniewski. Still in 2002, (Are you kidding me?,) with pick #282, Chicago took Adam Burish. In 2001, Chicago’s picks included Tuomo Ruutu, 9th overall, and Adam Munro at #29.

The Chicago GM is Dale Tallon. He was awarded the position in June 2005. Chicago is one of my two “adopted” Western Conference teams this year, along with Columbus. I’ll be rooting for Chicago no matter who their opponent is in the CF. If it’s Anaheim, Chicago will HOST GAME ONE. Imagine the excitement there!

Brendan

May 12th, 2009
12:06 am

By the way, everything I just described above, for CHICAGO, could be happening right here in Atlanta. It starts with new ownership and/or a new business model. If ya think about it, ya know it’s true. Boston got rid of Harry Sinden. Now look at them! It starts from the top.

I promise you … it CANNNNNN really happen here. But meaningful changes must be made. Instead, the organization treads water. Is it true, that that last contract Don Waddell signed was Toby Enstrom’s, last October?

Phil Foley

May 12th, 2009
1:23 am

Great article, Bill. You’d think that the Spirit would pay homage to the past and the hockey history here. It’s not like this is a vapid hockey market like the Canadian press and Sun Belt hockey haters would have us believe.

Your piece was a bit of an eye opener — never really thought why the organization didn’t set aside a part of the arena to both Hawks and Atlanta hockey history. A lot of teams are making a decent buck creating a team Hall of Fame and charging admission/running tours. You’d think the Spirit would follow that trend.

We were talking before the Hawks game tonight and it’s amazing how the hockey teams generally beat out the Hawks in attendance, until this season. All the Spirit needs to get to a sellout level every game is a good team. One of these days they will realize that.

squawks mcgrew

May 12th, 2009
7:14 am

Excellent piece and another shining example of how much our management doesn’t get it or us.

Quite a few of us are die-hard Flames fans. I actually still have a Jacques Richard jersey (upgrading to a both a road and home Bobby MacMillian so I’d have something that fit for the Thrashers games). I love seeing others in the old jerseys or bumping into Willi Plett at the arena and getting the chance to thank him for the memories.

Always wondered why the Spirit displayed no spirit with the past. Another reason I’m an ex-STH

Hip Czech

May 12th, 2009
7:57 am

Not sure how to do links anymore…but apparently Rawhide calling the Stupid Group out worked…

http://www.cbssports.com/nhl/story/11736115/rss

‘One of the team’s owners, Washington businessman Bruce Levenson, said Monday “there is no truth to the rumor” the ownership group has been involved in discussions about taking the team out of Atlanta, including with a Vancouver group reportedly interested in relocating the Thrashers to Hamilton, Ontario.

The Hamilton Spectator reported on Saturday Vancouver developer Tom Gaglardi heads a group interested in moving the Thrashers to Canada. There also are efforts to move the Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton.

Levenson said his Atlanta Spirit LLC ownership group, which also owns the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and operating rights to Philips Arena, recently hired an agency to “explore inquiries” from possible investors. He said there are ongoing talks but added “none involve moving either team.” ‘

Guess the Belkin bill is coming due.

World be Free

May 12th, 2009
8:14 am

So many of the old Flames still live here. The Spirit should tap into the hockey history that already exists.

Guess Patrick Kane isn’t too small after all-good Western New York boy.

Hamilton is an armpit-why would anyone want to put a team there?

Dingo Cheesepuff

May 12th, 2009
8:46 am

I’m not surprised at all. From day one the Thrashers have done just about everything they could *not* to market themselves. From a lack of a team identity (how many captains has this team had, exactly?), to poor play on the ice, to alienating the old Flames that still live here. Almost everything about this franchise is a joke.

Why they haven’t done a throwback night when Calgary is in town is beyond me. How great would it be to see the Thrashers and the Flames play, with the Thrashers wearing the burning A?

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Owners.

GaVaHokie

May 12th, 2009
9:10 am

It’s a shame… but every CEO, General Manager or even President of the United States has a vision of how things should run. And none of them would be worth a damn if they didn’t stick to their guns.

The Thrashers are not the Flames, in this case… they don’t even play in the same building. If the Thrashers are to have their own identity, they should be considered separate from the Flames… which also doesn’t help that people scream “Knights” during the anthem… I’ve slowly changed my position on this… I don’t say it anymore.

But it IS a shame that we would completely cut off the hockey history in this town… but I’m not gonna label ownership and management as martyrs because they think they need their own identity.

Do the Brewers have Milwaukee Braves night?… do the Mets and Yankees have Brooklyn Dodgers night?… do the Houston Texans have Houston Oilers night?

World be Free

May 12th, 2009
9:19 am

Celebrate what the Flames brought to Atlanta, not the fact that they moved to Calgary. The Cargary Flames still feature the Atlanta Flames logo on their shoulders.

I am sure many of the Flames’ players would like to be part of our current team.

Bob

May 12th, 2009
9:20 am

Doesn’t anyone understand why he won’t let the ex-Flames near the club? Or why he won’t allow Mellanby or any old Thrashers around the club?

There have been three ownership groups for this club, but there’s one constant here. Before Waddell was hired Ecclestone says that the Schiller’s opened their arms to him, but Donnie put a stop to that.

It’s clear to me that it’s Waddell that has kept them away from the club. Why? Good leaders surround themselves with great people and want input from experts in their field. Waddell surrounds himself with lackeys and yes men, and we are where we are. It’s why our scouting dept. stinks, it’s why our marketing dept. stinks. When it stinks at the top, it stinks all the way through the organ-I-zation.

Nothing meaningful will change here until meaningful changes are made a real GM in brought in.

Great games last night. Looking forward to the Game 7 tomorrow night, should be awesome. Chicago once again proved what I’ve thought for a long time, Luongo is probably the most overrated goalie in this league. Makes all the saves that mean nothing, but has never won anything big and lets in 7 goals last night on 30 shots. The Couv played well enough to live but had a big hole in their net last night. Luongo is just plain overrated.

GaVaHokie

May 12th, 2009
9:34 am

“Why they haven’t done a throwback night when Calgary is in town is beyond me. How great would it be to see the Thrashers and the Flames play, with the Thrashers wearing the burning A?”

It would be one thing if the Flames had folded, but they STILL EXIST… they’re in Calgary. Why would a new owner want to constantly recognize that?

That would be like a hamburger joint going out of business and was replaced by an Italian restaurant and they have to keep serving burgers because it USED to be a hamburger joint… once a month you invite the old owner and his cooking staff in to cook burgers and fries for old time sake.

Rawhide… I have my response prepared for the Brian Burke portion of your article. ;)

ranallo10 (in AT)

May 12th, 2009
9:56 am

I’m pretty sure the Flaming A is Flames property…they recently announced they’re moving their AHL AHL affiliate to Abbotsford, B.C., which means the flaming A will be used there.

Sorry, but sometimes the trademark is property of the team, which means the Flaming A likely went to Canada with the rest of the team.

You don’t see the Wild wearing the North Stars logo…do you?

Hijacker

May 12th, 2009
10:11 am

@Bob: Check out the following topic from a Thrashers message board. It’s a “beautiful” summary of the Thrashers hockey operations staff. You already covered some of the points.

http://forums.atlantathrashers.com/index.php?showtopic=24373

Glovesave29

May 12th, 2009
10:23 am

I have seen MLB and NFL all do throwback nights…so yes, I have seen Milwaukee Braves games in the past few years when the Braves play the Brewers.

The Flames are moving their AHL affiliate…AGAIN? Really? Wow! First Saint Johns, then Omaha, then Quad Cities, and now Abbotsford in a five year period. I’ll say it again – Thrash…move Gwinnett to the AHL.

According to Tom Saladino and Jim Huber, in the book “The Babes of Winter, the first years of the Atlanta Flames” the name Thrashers was a leading vote getter. Flames won, but did not get the most votes, it was just the most fitting name.

Bill, can wait to hear the collective jaws drop in part two. Tim dropped some bombs, and fans are not going to be happy. Gotta grin a mile wide waiting for part two!!!

Brendan

May 12th, 2009
10:24 am

Remember Levenson’s deal. If Thrashers fans stop yelling “Knights!” during the anthem for 5-straight games, Waddell gets fired. But if the yelling continues, or doesn’t quite go all the way to 5 games, Waddell stays … FOREVER. And ever. And ever. Like Mr. Grady’s girls at the “Overlook Hotel,” from the “Shining.”

That’s the deal, folks. So, if you want Waddell gone, you’ll just have suppress the anthem screaming. It’s a “tough, but fair” deal. Personally, I’m willing. If it’s the sacrifice we all must make for the “change we need,” then I’m happy to be a “silent partner.”

Bob

May 12th, 2009
10:35 am

Interesting in depth look at Waddell and Co’s inexperience, Hijacker. I’ve thought from about year 2 that Waddell was in way over his head and just not up to the job. It’s just pure selfish looking out for #1 by him to bring in lackeys with no experience. It’s what incompetent managers do, they surround themselves with lesser talent, that way there is no one who can stand up to him, no one to shine the light on his incompetence. You couple that with the lack of hockey knowledge amongst the Spirit boys and we have the Perfect Storm that this club wallows in year after year. And we’ll wallow in it again next year, and every year until Waddell is gone and a real GM is brought in here.

Brian Burke fully expected the job to be offered to him 10 or 11 years ago. Instead, they gave it to Waddell. That single moved damned this franchise from the get go. Burke, the best GM in this league, would have had this club in deep playoff runs and we’d have multiple divison and Conference banners hanging from the rafters and the place would be full every night.

There are tons of hockey fans in this town. As stroz points out, that’s the truth.

It’s also the truth that the reason the place is half empty every night is that the majority of us long time hockey fans have known for many years that Waddell is incapable of building a successful club and it’s a moot point to waste your money supporting a losing proposition.

The good news is that all of us long time fans will come back when they finally get a real GM in here and get this franchise finally on track.

Did anyone pick up the interesting comment from Levenson. Read what he said about hiring the firm to field inquiries from potential investors. My take is that they are going to have to buy out Belkin, and they can’t afford it, so they are looking at selling off the Thrashers to someone or a group who will keep them here in town. Almost assuredly the new owner(s) would be a guy or guys who know and love hockey. This means Waddell and his incompetent band of lackeys would be gone. This means they’d bring in someone competent. This means we’d finally be on the road to building a club. And if they can get this done in the next year, it may be in time to sway Kovy and get him to re-sign under the new GM and owners.

World be Free

May 12th, 2009
10:44 am

How about Pat Quinn, ex-Flame? I’d say he has some experience.

Ti-Cat

May 12th, 2009
10:46 am

Thanks Rawhide, now we know. Atlanta supported the Flames when they went to the playoffs. Just like they support the Thrashers only if they go to the playoffs. Just like the Hawks, Braves, etc. Atlanta is a bandwagon town even for “southern” sports. That is not a good recipe for a “foreign” sport like hockey. If they only support a team that is winning, ownership suffers too much during down years and will not take a gamble that a team like the Bruins would. The Bruins were still losers when they got the big free agents like Chara, Savard, etc. because they still had a base that was supporting them in down years. As a result they turned their fortunes around. That will never happen in Atlanta and you lose the free agent wars every time because of it. Hockey won’t make it in Atlanta because you won’t support a team through good times AND bad to get it to make the changes. So things never change.

Midfield

May 12th, 2009
10:46 am

Brendan, did Levenson put his signiture under this deal? And if he did, was it notarized?

Rawhide

May 12th, 2009
10:48 am

ranallo – No, you don’t see the Wild wearing the North Stars’ logo…but you do see them incorporating the there colors, (green and gold), into their uniforms today. That’s where the green comes from.

The way it’s been explained to me…the Wild have mixed the colors of the North Stars with the U. of Minn.’s colors.

GaVaHokie

May 12th, 2009
10:51 am

“Interesting in depth look at Waddell and Co’s inexperience, Hijacker. I’ve thought from about year 2 that Waddell was in way over his head and just not up to the job.”

You mean when his budget was $17 million… I think anyone would be “over their head”.

R. Stroz

May 12th, 2009
10:54 am

Ti-Cat – Atlanta supported the Flames the entire time they were here, in the regular season and the playoffs. Unless you were in Atlanta during the 1970’s, you might want to defer to those of us who were here.

That said, Flames fans didn’t experience bad teams since they were in the playoffs 6 of 8 seasons.

R. Stroz

May 12th, 2009
10:57 am

GaVaHokie – Tell us what you think about Dan Marr, PLEASE!

GaVaHokie

May 12th, 2009
10:59 am

“Brian Burke fully expected the job to be offered to him 10 or 11 years ago. Instead, they gave it to Waddell. That single moved damned this franchise from the get go. Burke, the best GM in this league, would have had this club in deep playoff runs and we’d have multiple divison and Conference banners hanging from the rafters and the place would be full every night.”

Wow… what a dramatic overstatement… must be nice for Burke to have a nice ball-fluffer like you… he won Conference titles and a Stanley Cup for Atlanta just in theory!

So obviously, since we’re making dramatic overstatements, if Brian Burke is the GM of Atlanta, we could have had Chris Pronger and Scott Neidermayer? And surely, ownership would have gladly paid to the salary cap maximum every year.

Ti-Cat

May 12th, 2009
11:03 am

This is what I don’t understand. People say Atlanta would support a real team and also if they got rid of Don Waddell. Yet when you had Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk as rookies with players like Savard and Kozlov among others you only had 13 thousand a night which was only better than 2 other teams in the league. The following year you still only had 13 thousand a night when everyone should have known what you had in Kovalchuk and Heatley (and Savard, Kozlov, etc). Why didn’t you support those guys then if you are such a good hockey town?

R. Stroz

May 12th, 2009
11:04 am

GaVaHokie – But we may have had the Sedin sisters instead of drafting Stephanie.

Sara

May 12th, 2009
11:06 am

Bob according to Levenson in comments he made a few months back or so, what they are actually looking for is an investor to come in and purchase Belkin’s 30% stake.

Bob

May 12th, 2009
11:07 am

Hokie, you have so little credibility left, you’re the same genius that said we were just fine without Brian Campbell, even better off getting Hainsey because it saved us money, right? Did you watch the ‘Hawks dismantle the Canucks? Do you watch Campbell handle the puck for them and feed their forwards up ice? If I remember correctly, you’re the same genius that called Luongo the greatest goalie in the league, right?

Stick to VA Tech football, Hokie, and leave the hockey discussion to those of us that know the game.

Adam

May 12th, 2009
11:09 am

There are so many things that these owners have done, or not done, that have damaged the image of the team. You almost have to find it humorous at this point. These guys are not very people friendly, their ego’s are as big as all out doors. They should change their name to Arrogant Spurious.

Look at the changes in Chicago. Most nights at the United Center from 1998-2006 you could just about have a conversation with a guy on the other side of the rink. In 06 they held the same spot in attendance we hold now, although we had about 900 more on average. But we all know just because they announce 14600 doesn’t mean there are butts in those seats. In the lower 48 if a team doesn’t win the fans just don’t show up. We have so many other things to spend our entertainment dollars on, unlike the Frozen North. When Dollar Bill died last year there was no TV deal in Chicago, PPV only, and while they had some of their pieces in place they were far from where they are today. The day after they put him in the ground they went on a marketing bonanza. If you remember last summer they hired their “Hockey Advisor” by taking Scotty Bowman away from Detriot. He is now listed as “Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations”

Hey Atlanta Spirit, in case you didn’t catch last nights Chicago Vancouver game. It was announced that they had sold over 1 million tickets so far this year. I know, I know Phillips is smaller than the United Center by 1750 seats. That just means the team will have to play at least 3 more games past the semifinals…

Ti-Cat

May 12th, 2009
11:10 am

R. Stroz – exactly that’s all I hear about Atlanta. You only support a team if it wins. But yet the Thrashers won a division title and you still couldn’t attract decent crowds in your best years. Now they are losing again and you are back to the bottom 2-3 teams in the league. So if in your glory years you are in the bottom 10 teams in the league how can you possibly consider yourself a hockey market? You have supposedly 5 million people to draw from and you get 13 thousand in bad years, 15 thousand if you win a division title. That is not what I would call a good market if I owned a team.

Bob

May 12th, 2009
11:11 am

“according to Levenson in comments he made a few months back or so, what they are actually looking for is an investor to come in and purchase Belkin’s 30% stake”

Don’t listen to what they say (especially Levenson!), watch what they do (and form your own educated opinions on the planned action).

They don’t need a firm to field someone to just step into Belkin’s position, it’s already set up. Plus, who would want to step into that group, especially in this shaky financial market? No, they need to sell off assets to raise the cash, and the most likely, in my opinion, is to sell the Thrashers to someone that will keep them here and playing in the arena they own.

Spud Webb

May 12th, 2009
11:13 am

WOW Rawhide, I am floored. Great article, I had no idea. Just sad I say. Seems like every single day we find out more and more what a bunch of “not smart” people are running the Thrashers. Looking forward to the second part. I wish Don would step down.

Bob

May 12th, 2009
11:14 am

“You have supposedly 5 million people to draw from and you get 13 thousand in bad years”

We sold out games in the early years, even when we were bad. I was a full season ticket holder, then dropped down to half, and finally last year gave up. The reason? Same reason that many of the guys that sat around me gave as they left, we had no confidence in Waddell’s ability to ice a quality club, and those that left early and continued to leave have been proven right.

The good news is that we’ll all be back once the inept GM is gone and there’s hope for the franchise again. It can be done, we just need the right GM to build it.

Adam

May 12th, 2009
11:24 am

Ti-Cat, see above.

It’s funny you bring up Boston’s attendance. Hmmm in 07 they averaged 14764. Lets see this year Atlanta averaged 14646. This year Boston 17039. Quite a hockey market you’ve got up there…

Do a little research before you post. —> http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/attendance