April 2007…almost three years ago. That was the last time the Thrashers hosted such a meaningful game. Back then, they were games number 83 and 84 of the season…the first two playoff games in the history of the franchise.
I ask you Thrasherville…do you remember what those games were like? Do you remember the excitement…the energy…the emotion…the thrill…the intensity that permeated throughout Philips Arena during not just those two games, but the games leading up to them? Do you recall the way the barn was packed with 18,000 + Thrashers fans and how the stands shook when they took to the ice for game one?
Yeah…I do too.
It’s been many a-moon since that time. The experience lasted but a few short days as the Rangers took games one and two by the scores of 4-3 and 2-1. Then they finished us off with a 7-0 beat-down in game three and a gut-wrenching 4-2 decision that denied Thrashers fans of at least a return home for a third home game during the series.
It ended all too soon…and we haven’t come close to anything like it since.
Since that time we cheered as the 2006-07 Southeast Division Banner was raised on opening night six months after that playoff sweep, then immediately went on an OH-fer six losing streak to begin the season…costing Bob Hartley his job.
Then we suffered though a season in which Don Waddell added “coach” to his previously existing titles of Executive VP & GM…the Marian Hossa saga…the complete collapse down the stretch…and the slow start in the fall of 2008 with new coach John Anderson behind the bench.
We then experienced the hope that came from how the team performed in the last couple months of last season, which continued into the fall…then came December and a 9-game losing streak…the Ilya Kovalchuk saga…a five-game losing streak…followed by the 4-0-1 week that we have recently gone through. And here we are in late March 2010…72 games played, 10 games remaining.
But not once during the past three years has one single game had any type of serious playoff implications attached to it as those of thirty-six months ago.
At least not here, not in Thrasherville… until now.
The Thrashers have risen from the ashes of NHL despair, following up the near-disastrous five-game losing streak with a 4-0-1 week. Where they were just a week ago flirting with a trip to Lotterypickville, they now find themselves once again knocking on the door of a playoff position. And tomorrow night, they face the team that…at this time… stands between them and that coveted position, the eighth-place Boston Bruins.
And while it isn’t a “playoff” game exactly…I can’t help but think it’ll take on that same feel.
What’s on the line here? Simple…win in regulation and the 8th and final playoff spot belongs to the Thrashers with but nine games left on the schedule. Lose in regulation and the Thrashers are 3 in back of the Bruins, who have a game in hand.
Must win? Well, it’s as close to it as we’ve seen in quite a while, I’d say.
Naturally, the question many have at this time is, “Just how will the team respond to such an important game with playoff implications attached”?
It’s a logical question of course, especially given the Jekyll and Hyde aura that surrounds this team. But the only one’s that have any say-so in regards to that question will be the players and coaches…no one else.
But I have a question that only you can respond to…”How are YOU going to respond to such an important game, one with so much playoff implications attached to it”?
This isn’t intended for the STHs or those of you who have made there way to games on a regular basis. This is a question directly aimed at the crowd who have stayed away for some time and have been waiting for some reason to return to Philips. Is THIS enough for you to make your way down there and support this team? Is the position they find themselves in…no, wait…is the position this team has WORKED themselves back into enough to get you in the building?
If it isn’t …then it should be.
Folks, can you just imagine what will be said if…as the NHL community looks in at the proceedings in Thrasherville tomorrow might…the backdrop of the drama unfolding on the ice of Philips Arena is that of a vast sea of empty blue seats? It will be nothing short of brutal.
But this time…their scorn will not be unjustified if we see what a “normal” Tuesday night crowd assembled. Therefore, if you have ever claimed to be a hockey fan in this town…if you have ever claimed to be a fan of the Thrashers…then tomorrow night you simply must be in the house!
Are you a part of the “don’t subsidize the incompetence” crowd? Yeah well…that’s all well and good and I’m not gonna tell anyone how to spend their hard-earned money. But if you claim to be a hockey fan in this city and you choose to stay home for those reasons…at this time…then stay away for good. And do not waste anyone else’s time by throwing you cyber-stones in here.
We can gripe…we can bitch…we can moan…we can complain…we can insist changes be made…we can demand accountability when things go as wrong as they have for far too long . That’s a fan’s right. But when this type of game at this juncture of the season comes around after so long a time…if you don’t at least WANT to be a part of it in person, then go on and watch Lost or American Idol or …ahem…Biggest Loser.
But if you are indeed a real, honest-and-for-true fan of NHL hockey and the Atlanta Thrashers, and if you have the financial and logistical means to be in Philips Arena on Tuesday night March 23, 2010…well, then get your ticket now and plant your backside in a seat then. But don’t expect to spend too much time in it…not the way these guys are playing right now.
Be there, Thrasherville…
But most of all just … BE THERE!