As Tim Tucker reported, the name and logo of the Thrashers will not relocate to Winnipeg when the team does. They were not a part of the deal when the Atlanta Spirit sold the franchise to True North Sports and Entertainment.
Also not a part of the deal apparently was team president/former GM/former part-time head coach Don Waddell. He served as general manager for 10 of the 11 seasons in which the Thrashers played in Atlanta.
“They bought the assets of the company, excluding name and logo,” Waddell said. “That remains with our ownership group, Atlanta Spirit…I’m going to stay here through the close of business.”
“Then I’ll explore my options”, he added. “Whether that is staying here in Atlanta or looking to move in another direction, I will evaluate that when the time comes.”
So, if anyone knows of any openings for those experienced in assisting the running of a professional sports franchise right into the ground…
Anyway… once the team does close up shop and Mr. Waddell’s work here is finally complete, the “Thrashers” will officially become no more and fade off into the memories the citizens of Thrasherville. But while these memories are still fresh in our minds, allow me to ask you just what you’ll remember about the team and the time they spent here.
I chatted briefly with my family about this very subject as we made our way back from Florida earlier this week. I found it interesting that we all came up with differing responses.
For my younger son Chris, his first thoughts went back to opening night of the 2003-04 season when we all gathered to not only begin a new hockey campaign, but also say goodbye to Dan Snyder. He recalled the bagpipes playing as 18,000-plus fans mourned the loss of one who left us far too soon.
For Matt, my oldest, he was quick to point out coach Bob Hartley. Not just for what he did behind the Thrashers bench, leading them to their two best seasons and one-and-only playoff appearance, but he also remembers how Hartley pulled him from a crowd of people during the open house prior to the 2006-07 season.
“Hey, I know you”, the coach said. “How is your skating comin’ along there, Matty?”
Only Coach Bob could ever call him that.
He then asked about his schoolwork and how his Bantam team was doing so far.
My wife Judi told me that she would never forget what Philips Arena was like the night of the first playoff game in April 2007, and how the upper deck shook when Eric Belanger scored that fist playoff goal in team history.
Sadly, there would only be five more scored during the four-game sweep to the Rangers… one each by Greg deVries, Pascal Dupuis, Ilya Kovalchuk, Shane Hnidy and Keith Tkachuk. Both Tkachuk and Dupuis added a pair of assists and will forever hold the all-time playoff scoring record with three overall points.
Kovy had a goal and one assist while Nic Havelid and Brad Larson each notched a pair of assists.
Maybe you’ll remember that the Thrashers played to a record of 342 wins, 437 losses, 78 overtime losses and 45 ties in 902 regular season games. Post-lockout, their record was 222-212-58, but during the last four seasons it slipped to 138-151-39.
Perhaps the team’s first ever game on October 2, 1999 will come to mind, a 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils. If you were there, certainly you recall the team’s first-ever goal scored by Kelly Buchberger at the 11:26 mark of the second period. The assists on the goal went to Martin Prozchaka and the enigmatic first-ever draft pick in team history, Patrick Stefan.
Many will certainly remember the very first ever victory in franchise history as Damian Rhodes blanked the Islanders in New York 2-0 on October 14,1999. Twelve days later came the first home win, 2-1 over the Flames, the first team to depart Atlanta. The next month saw the team’s first-ever hat trick, courtesy of Dean Sylvester against the Vancouver Canucks.
Surely many will remember when this Thrashers organization employed two of the most promising young stars in the league, Ilya Kovalchuk and Dany Heatley. Or maybe you’ll recall the 2002 draft when then-general manager Don Waddell elected to go with a young Finnish netminder with the second overall pick, Kari Lehtonen.
And then there was the Bob Hartley era between January 15, 2003 and October 17, 2007. He took over the team during its fourth year after Curt Fraser was fired following an 8-20-4-1 start. The Thrashers finished that season 19-14-5-1 with Hartley behind the bench. Their 78 overall points that year were the most ever at the time and it was topped by 12 points the next…just prior to the lockout.
In all, the Thrashers went 136-112-13-24 during his time as head coach before the 0-6-0 start in 2007 cost Hartley his job.
Of course, since that time…well, we’ve already gone over that.
Many I am sure will recall the last goal ever scored by an Atlanta Thrasher…a power play tally by Tim Stapleton during the 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh in the season finale roughly two months ago. Or maybe what will come to mind is the last hat trick, courtesy of fourth-liner Eric Boulton against the Devils last December.
The last win came in New York as the Thrashers blanked the Rangers 3-0 behind Ondrej Pavelec’s 29 saves. The last win at home was a 5-4 shootout win against the Ottawa Senators on March 27. The last ever regulation win in Philips Arena came way back on February 11 when they knocked off the Rangers 3-2. Evander Kane scored twice in the third period to secure that win.
The most goals scored by a Thrasher was Kovalchuk, (328), followed by Slava Kozlov, (145), Marian Hossa, (108), Dany Heatley, (80), Bryan Little, (68), Marc Savard, (63), Patrik Stefan, (59), Ray Ferraro, (56), Jim Slater, (47) and rounding out the top-10 is Todd White, (43).
No, that was not a typo.
I’m certain many of you will recall certain favorite players…whether it is the likes of Kovalchuk, Lehtonen, Savard, Jeff Odgers, Hossa, Evander Kane, Pasi Nurminen, Garnet Exelby…the list goes on and on. I’m sure I’ll read about these players as well as many, many others in the comments section below.
As for me…well, I’m sure all of the above and many other things will come to mind when I reminisce about those Atlanta Thrashers many years down the road. Like my family, I will recall the electric atmosphere that surrounded the run up to and into the playoffs back in ’07, shedding tears with you all when we said goodbye to young Dan Snyder and getting to know such classy people as coach Bob Hartley, radio voice of the Thrashers Dan Kamal and others that crossed our paths between 1999 and 2011…and I’ll always get a chuckle out of the things that crazy bird Thrash would do to entertain us all.
But the very first thing I know that I’ll think about when reminiscing about the Atlanta Thrashers era is…YOU, the good people of Thrasherville.
I will remember the fun we shared before, during and sometimes even after games down at Philips. I will also recall with fondness the gatherings at places like TJs Sports Bar & Grill where we would meet to watch select road games.
I’ll think about the good we did here last spring when a small suggestion made on this blog exploded into a great movement to get the Bennings, a.k.a ‘The Kiss-Cam Couple’, selected as last year’s 7th Fan Award recipients. As I have many times before, I simply have to express my deepest and most sincere appreciation to all those who flooded the team’s office with e-mails, phone calls and letters on their behalf.
And a special tip of the hat to the Joint Chiefs of Staff members of Operation POM-POM for your efforts in making that happen for such a deserving couple that we all came to love and revere.
I will forever cherish the opportunity I was given to meet so many of you…whether it was at the games, viewing parties or even just here on this online forum I have been so blessed to have hosted for the last four Thrashers seasons.
Players, coaches, trades, draft picks, stats, records, goals, wins and losses may fade into the mist of passing time, but I will always remember you Thrasherville.