Did you know Tom Glavine used to play hockey?
(Sorry. That was just for the Glavine bashers.)
But speaking of hockey: I sat down with a Thrashers general manager (still!) Don Waddell Monday afternoon. We had an entertaining 35-minute discussion about all sorts of things, one of which was how he’s been able to keep his job (he was hired in 1998) despite only one playoff berth in nine seasons and no playoff wins.
Don took the hardball questions in good humor. As much as people have always assumed he and I hate each other, given I used to cover the team, I actually like the guy personally. We almost always have great conversations and I think only twice have actually reached for weapons. This was no exception. (The conversation part).
The reason for our talk is the Stanley Cup finals could end tonight (much to the chagrin of my wife, the Penguins fan). So it officially will signal the beginning of everybody’s off-season rebuilding program. The draft is June 26-27 and NHL free agency begins shortly thereafter.
I know I won’t be able to squeeze everything into the column, which will be posted later today. So here’s one thing I thought might fall between the cracks.
I asked Don about his concern about the several losing seasons turning off fans (and potential fans) and hurting Atlanta as a hockey market.
His response: “Certainly not being able to sustain [success] the year after we went to the playoffs is the most disappointing thing. That hurt us.
“For us to prove we’re a viable NHL market, we’re going to have to be consistent and have back-to-back winning seasons. And when I say winning seasons, that’s going to the playoffs and everything. That’s the only way we’re going to be able to test this market. Is this market a hockey market or not? I still believe it truly is? But I probably look at it from a different point of view than most people.”
He estimated the “hard core” number of fans at 11,000, and acknowledged that has to grow.
I’ll check back in later.