Bettman wants Thrashers’ owners to get their act together

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman still believes in Atlanta as a hockey market.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman still believes in Atlanta as a hockey market, but the Thrashers have been hurt by ownership squabbles.

Smart, objective businessmen know that when a company goes belly-up, it’s probably not the fault of the minimum-wage schlepp on the assembly line. So it follows that when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was asked about the myriad problems the league’s Atlanta franchise is having, he didn’t point to an underachieving goalie or a failed intern in marketing.

It starts at the top. It always starts at the top.

“Ultimately, the ownership situation has to be straightened out,” Bettman told The Atlanta  Journal-Constitution. “It’s difficult to operate a franchise when owners aren’t getting along. It’s even more difficult in a recession climate. A team has to be at its very best. Issues have to be resolved and everybody has to be together so they can interact with fans. But that’s difficult when the owners aren’t together.”

The Atlanta Spirit owners want you to believe all is well. But now somebody above them is saying the same thing as everybody below them.

The Spirit long has been defensive about how their structure and courtroom battles have affected their tenure. They’re currently enjoying success with the Hawks. But basketball always has been a higher priority. The group’s lack of commitment to doing what it takes to build a winning hockey franchise – and their seeming indifference to the problems – have worn on Thrashers’ fans and, to a degree, players. There were several points in negotiations with Ilya Kovalchuk when he and agent Jay Grossman were getting mixed signals from owner Bruce Levenson.

The franchise struggles are not going over well with Bettman. He views hockey’s success in Atlanta as an important part of the big picture in the NHL.

The Thrashers are failing on several fronts. They’re 28th in the league in attendance, averaging 4,000 fans fewer per game in season 10 (13,204, according to inflated announced figures) than in year one (17,205). They have failed to cultivate new fans. They’ve burned bridges with old ones. General manager Don Waddell, the only constant from day one, acknowledges the team will fail to meet financial mandates from the league, which means it will be docked a portion of its take from the NHL’s revenue sharing program.

On the ice, it’s no better. If the playoffs opened today, the Thrashers would be on the outside for the ninth time in 10 seasons. They also just traded the face of the franchise, Kovalchuk, to New Jersey, which leaves the team lacking a marketable star.

Rumors of the franchise being sold and moved are constant. The Spirit have acknowledged only that they have sought to bring in new investors, especially following the expected exit of partner Steve Belkin. The uncertainty has made for an unstable atmosphere.

Spirit owners have long claimed their litigation has had no effect on the teams. Bettman isn’t convinced.

“Let’s put it this way,” he said. “We can always agree to disagree on how much it hurts. But it certainly doesn’t help.”

Bettman remains confident in the Atlanta market, saying: “Ultimately, I believe when this all gets sorted out, the franchise will be in a better place.”

He then stopped and laughed, realizing it was a poor choice of words, given rumors of a move.

“Can I change that? What I mean is the franchise will be in a better situation.”

He would not discuss whether owners have shopped the Thrashers: “Whether a club is or isn’t on the market, unless the club makes an announcement, we don’t discuss those things publicly. It’s just a policy of mine.”

But he did reaffirm that the NHL is “committed” to Atlanta.

“We think it’s very important [for the league] and we believe that whatever issues the franchise has, they can be overcome, and ultimately the franchise can be successful,” he said. “We have a strong track record of addressing franchise problems and not abandoning cities. Look at Phoenix. [The Coyotes went into bankruptcy and were taken over by the league, which is looking for new owners.] I don’t think you need to go much farther down the road than that. But look at Buffalo, Ottawa, Pittsburgh. All three have had problems at some point, but they’ve all been successful.

“When the ownership situation is resolved, we believe the franchise will be able to move forward. We’re committed to the market. Our track record indicates we do everything we can do to avoid relocation.”

Atlanta lost the Flames to Calgary in 1980. When the league awarded a franchise to the city again in June of 1997, it expected to capitalize on the growth of the market and hockey’s expansion in the Sunbelt.

The problem in the NHL’s second incarnation, however, hasn’t been the sport itself. Attendance in early years and during the playoff season proved that. The problem has been the mismanagement of the franchise, on and off the ice.

Is Bettman disappointed?

“I don’t think it’s ever fair to use a blanket characterization like that,” he said.

But then he pretty much said as much: “I don’t think things have gone quite as well as anybody might’ve hoped. But in sports, things can change, as we experienced in Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Ottawa. Maybe right now the franchise is not going as well as hoped. But we take a longer-term view of things.”

He said the fact the team “made a $100 million commitment [to Kovalchuk] can’t  be minimized.”

But he chose to reserve judgment on the impact of the Kovalchuk trade. “That’s something we can talk about intellectually in a year or two.”

It has been 30 years since the Flames moved to Calgary. The scary comparison there: They actually made the playoffs in six of their eight seasons in Atlanta. Foreshadowing? Bettman says no.

“We believe Atlanta is a good sports town and a good hockey town,” he said. “We believe once issues are resolved, the team can move forward and ultimately the fans will respond.”

190 comments Add your comment

thrashville

February 7th, 2010
10:15 am

Schultz, you’re a real piece of work … one negative article after another … two words, you suck … and it is ONE owner that disrupted everything and is causing all of this, one owner that the ASG is trying to cut off, one owner that didnt want to pay Joe Johnson or give up a first round pick (which, funny enough, didn’t even affect the team) … this in a time when no bigtime players wanted to come here … now we have a 4-time all-star and playoffs… why don’t you write something positive but i guess that just make you more fake … funny how pretty much all the fans at ther townhall meeting last night called for you’re firing … imagine that … i was and still am one of them … being an Atlanta native, your coverage on sports here is mediocre and one-sided … it’s always a bash party for you and your articles do nothing to make the teams better, only to rile up people that aren’t even attending the games … so more or less, you have these bumbling fools agreeing with you who aren’t even part of the fanbase … guess you can go home and sleep at night b/c that? pathetic …

adf

February 7th, 2010
10:15 am

wow, I guess the fact this article is 14 mins old and nobody’s popped in with ‘first’ shows how little hockey matters in Atlanta. They’ll be gone within the next couple of years, I’m guessing.

Matt B.

February 7th, 2010
10:18 am

523rd? Who cares about hockey in Atlanta?

thrashville

February 7th, 2010
10:19 am

adf, nobody likes schultz, thats probably why … this piece of crap just popped up while i was reading the news … and hockey does matter here, you’re just one of :his” cronies

thrashville

February 7th, 2010
10:23 am

matt b and adf, my point has been made in my first post by you two idiots .. you’re probably the same numbnuts who say “atl has a basketball team?” or “atl has a football team?” … you’re probably not atlanta natives as it is, and if so, what a shame … either that or you were people who came to see the Braves in the early 90s but then didn’t come out during the playoff games starting in 2000 b/c you’re train of thought was “they’re just going to lose anyways” … once again, this city shows how stupid people really are

AP

February 7th, 2010
10:25 am

When will the issues be resolved!!!! I’m one foot out the door already.

Biff Pocoroba

February 7th, 2010
10:34 am

Paul Hewitt and Dan Waddell will be allowed to stick around forever and destroy their teams but no one will be around to care anymore so it doesn’t matter.

Tim

February 7th, 2010
10:38 am

Bettman is a liar period. The league DOES have a track record of abandoning cities. Hartford, Quebec City, and Winnipeg were completely (and wrongly) abandoned to move the league into the south to get a big television contract. Overall it’s been a huge blunder. But that’s the past, I just can’t believe he’d lie about it so blatently.

PMC

February 7th, 2010
10:39 am

Much too little Much to late.

They have a GM employed for no reason but the fact that he’s cheap. Why else would you employ a guy who by his own words is responsible to make moves that benifit the team in the short and long term yet hasn’t accomplished the slightest thing in 11 years? It’s not like it’s remarkably difficult to make it into the playoffs with 8 teams in each division making it every single year and yet this man has done it exactly once and he severely damaged the “long term relevance” of the franchise in doing so. If he was a samurai he would have fallen on the sword LONG ago. It was is and always has been Waddell making the decisions…. Think it’s time for a freaking change yet???????

Sara

February 7th, 2010
10:40 am

Jeff – thank you for making that call. It is long past time the League publicly addressed this mess. Hopefully if this is what he would say in public, what’s been said in private has been much more pointed and much harsher. The League has been overwhelmed the past several years with problem franchises but with the Tampa situation now resolved, hopefully they can turn their attention to Atlanta and start working behind the scenes to get this mess resolved. The Kovalchuk indictment was clear – he bent over backwards to compliment the fans, the city of Atlanta, and his teammates in his post-trade interviews but instead directed his shot exactly where it was deserved with that “first time … playing for a first-class organization” remark.

PMC

February 7th, 2010
10:42 am

All these people whining about hockey not being important can go shove it! We are a 4 sport town. If you want to only care about college football terrific. That’s awesome, you can go watch it. Hockey is important because it gives you CHOICES. Opportunities. You want to be myopic… go live in some podunk town in Texas and live for friday nights. Geez.

ChippersLoveChild

February 7th, 2010
10:47 am

Thash,

He took the owners to task, like they should have been long ago, and not only did he hold our owners accountable for the first time in awhile, he got Bettman to comment on them. I know it is popular for us Thrasher fans to jump on Schultz, but this was a quality piece. Ease up. New owners and the fans will come back.. P.S. nice win for the boys last night! Finally playing with some heart and guts, loved it, and kudos to an excellent crowd!

ChippersLoveChild

February 7th, 2010
10:49 am

The people who say hockey doesn’t matter are the same morons who address residents of Atlanta as either yankees or rebels. They are bumpkins, and ignorant hillbillies. Not shocking, there are still a few good old boys left, they’re just pissed they are becoming the minority in this town/area now.

balismith

February 7th, 2010
10:52 am

yea…………right ……..Atlanta a hockey town,Atlanta a good sports town….come on man

Darkhorse

February 7th, 2010
11:02 am

thrashville-It may be one owner that disrupted things as a whole, but I wouldn’t imply the remaining owners are the poster children on how to run an NHL franchise in a non-traditional market. What is your personal breaking point as a STH? What would cause you to walk away from spending a lot of money on the Thrashers? Just curious. Would it really be a bad thing if they found a buyer for the team willing/wanting to keep it here that actually loved hockey as much as the fans? At some point new blood in management and ownership is usually a welcome site. In this case, we’re past that point.

Schultz-Did Bettman elude to their being a solution on the horizon in respect to new investors or a buyer for the franchise? Or did he seem to indicate this was going to continue to drag on for the foreseeable future?

Those questions come to mind because Tampa is close to being purchased again for the second time in about three years. It makes me wonder if the Boston guy buying the Lightning had any interest in us or the Phoenix franchise? Maybe this ownership scares away potential partners/buyers at the moment, plus the economy affecting everyone in some way.

eagle

February 7th, 2010
11:07 am

Great article Jeff. I agree wholeheartedly. The fans will come back when we get commited ownership and a front office that has a clue. Happened with the Falcons (Blank) and Braves (Ted).

Rich from the Sports Buffet

February 7th, 2010
11:10 am

Good column, Jeff. Nice to hear someone ABOVE ownership acknowledge the issues.

Darkhorse

February 7th, 2010
11:13 am

Sara-On one hand, i’m very pissed Kovalchuk let this drag out if he felt in his gut all along management/ownership would not change to his liking, but on the other hand, I would have wanted out at this point too if I was him……unfortunately.

As for the guys on the ice, I hope they start to play as a more cohesive group the rest of the year. They may not make the playoffs, unless a few more pieces are brought in, but just play hard and for each other. That will go a long ways in regaining respect with the fans.

Bob

February 7th, 2010
11:13 am

“you have these bumbling fools agreeing with you who aren’t even part of the fanbase”

there’s a lot of us who agree with Schultz that are, in fact, part of the fanbase. In fact, the majority of the fanbase agrees with Schultz, which is precisely why you have seen the arena empty night after night. Waddell has driven most of the fans away, those that are left are the newbie naive fans that buy Waddell and ownership’s dribble (if you believe for one minute that Kovy left over money, you need a reality check, he left to go play where there’s solid ownership and a real GM who can build a winner–he will sign for the same, or less, than what we offered, and he’ll sign with a real team).

Shultz, thanks for interviewing Bettman and confirming what I know to be true. The NHL will not let the owners sell the club to someone who moves the team. They will sell the club to someone that will leave them in Phillips.

So, Sara, nice to see you come out of hiding. Are you ready to wo-man up and admit you were dead wrong about Kovy checking out months ago and just going through motions until he left? He’s been counting the days, Sara, just like I and others told you.

And as I’ve told you many times, nothing will change here until Waddell is gone. I heard Levenson gave Waddell the dreaded vote of confidence last night, let’s pray it works.

Asheville Dawg

February 7th, 2010
11:15 am

Thrashville and PMC You folks don’t get it. Nobody wants to watch a fourth rate organization, which is run by by the Atlanta Spirit(less). Waddell should have been fired years ago, but now folks in the ATL are making their choices. In a bad economy, ranking 28th in attendance pretty much shows that the city has a small core of fans, and no one else cares!

The league probably needs to take over the ownership because until they start getting and retain some “star” players they are doomed to repeat the ATL’s hockey history.

Ask the average Joe who the big Thrasher star is………………and receive a blank stare.

docsbro

February 7th, 2010
11:22 am

Thrasherville take a chill pill. This was good balanced article and if you don’t believe it I believe you are “on the payroll”. This is not a negative article just a truthful one. He merely asked the most important person in the NHL what his thoughts where and he gave very pointed answers.

Sage of Bluesland

February 7th, 2010
11:27 am

Another dose of reality for those who don’t care for the taste of it at all–but the folks should be thankful there is at least ONE writer in this city who will tell the TRUTH. Bradley sold out to Waddell (like he did with Pete Babcock, a fellow brethren similarly incompetent as our bumbling, lisping fraud of a GM).

The apologists are out in force these days–but they do provide some amount of comic relief with their utter delusion and ignorance.

It’s funny–if Don Waddell were so “classy”, you would think he would have responded to one of my several emails to him back in 2003. He is a fraud, pure and simple–and it’s both humorous and disgusting to see the sheep continue to buy what he’s selling hook, line, and sinker…

(Despite the FACTS staring them in the face…It’s the RECORD, stupid…It’s the player-development, STUPID…It’s the wasted draft picks, STUPID…It’s the litany of FAILED PROMISES, STUPID…)

Got the picture, sheep?

Enough is Enough

February 7th, 2010
11:33 am

thrashville – Are you the rude dyke that runs the Thrashers fan club for free seats and other party favors or an ASG employee that can’t stand having the truth told?

BTW, most of the people I sat around at the Town Hall meeting are happy that Schultz holds the fire to the feet of these bumbling owners. Yeah, some clapped for the fan who called for Schultz’s head on a platter, but not most.

Maybe, you should have surgery for your cranial-rectal inversion issue.

Will

February 7th, 2010
12:10 pm

Until or unless new ownership is in place, the Atlanta franchise will be no different from the Pittsburgh franchise in MLB – nothing more than a glorified high minor league outfit that serves as a step to the big leagues. Do you really believe the franchise’s “hot prospects, if they develop, will be paid enough to keep them here?

No NHL player wants to come to Atlanta because the ownership commitment is not there to make the team a competitive playoff team (”but they are only a few points out of 8th place” – come on, being the 8th team in the NHL playoffs is not what attracts NHL players).

Atlanta will never lead the NHL is percentage of seats sold (the real measuring stick of attendance, not average attendance as a team drawing 17,000 to a 21,000 seat arena is not drawing better than a team that is drawing 16,000 to a 17,500 seat arena)but the franchise will draw more than enough fans to keep the franchise in Atlanta when both fans and players believe the franchise is more than indifferent to their wishes.

rob

February 7th, 2010
12:19 pm

Jeff,
My hat is off to you sir. I thank you for being man enough to take up a just cause. The fact that Bettman is saying this and you asked questions geared towards the problems with the team lead me to believe enough attention is now focused here. Now PLEASE, PLEASE continue to dig. Does ownership have an answer to this article? Do they think they can come to terms and move forward as the league wants? While we all know the answers, how about a nice article detailing the failures of the team due to mismanagement and how detrimental this has been to the FANS and the PLAYERS of the Trashers?
AGAIN, I thank you for the reporting, at such a true time for needed change it is good to see the AJC take the lead and ask for some answers. Now if we can continue to get to the bottom so it does not settle back to obscure. If Atlanta finally begins to question this, then other markets will see there is a desire for hockey to stay here and succeed.

Reid Adair

February 7th, 2010
12:32 pm

Jeff, it is good to know that Gary Bettman is keeping a close eye on what is going on with the Thrashers. It’s also good to know that he realizes the problems specifically with the Atlanta Spirit owners. Perhaps the most comforting part is the commitment he expressed toward hockey in Atlanta.

Kovy's Agent

February 7th, 2010
1:05 pm

Jeff, agree with your latest column and with the general tone of your Thrasher pieces of late. While we can all rightly castigate ownership, I give no quarter to DW and the management either. Look at Nashville. They’ve had continuing troubles as well with ownership finances and draw flies most nights, but they put a quality product on ice year in and year out. They’ve never had the superstar player but have managed to play disciplined, quality hockey.

It’s funny though, the last two games without Kovy, the team has played some of the most inspired, hardworking hockey I have ever seen out of a Thrasher team. If they keep that type of play up, I just might be lured back to the arena. As much as I enjoyed watching Kovy and his talents over the last eight years, there was many a night when he coasted thru games and he NEVER much cared about defense, so if the guys realize there is no superstar to rely on, they may play a more team-oriented game and that will be a nice change from what we’ve watched during the Kovy era.

bartdunwoody

February 7th, 2010
1:06 pm

Jeff, good article and and excellent follow up on recent events. Bettman committed to more than I thought he would about the ownership situation.
Now that “somebody above them is saying the same thing as everybody below them” we can only wait and hope for a resolution soon.
NHL hockey will live in Atlanta.

JJ

February 7th, 2010
1:09 pm

Jeff

Hockey no doubt can make it in Atl.and believe you know it will and can. I understand your frustration. The vibe last night was awesome along with a win. Rick Dudley is the real deal and will no doubt get this thing jump started, if he has not already. Bettman knows if we have a team that is competitive year in and year out that this will be a terrific place for the NHL. I am glad he recognizes that much.

Hillbilly Deluxe

February 7th, 2010
1:14 pm

The Braves lost under Ted Turner for about 15 years until he got some good baseball people and got out of the way and let them do their jobs. Maybe someday that can happen with the Thrashers, if they’re still here.

StateBird

February 7th, 2010
1:23 pm

Jeff – Dittos and thanks for the article. I would take comfort in what Bettman has said repeatedly about the Atlanta market but unfortunately his word is almost as worthy as DWs.

westcobbstinger

February 7th, 2010
1:44 pm

Atlanta Spirit + teflon Don = possible death of a hockey franchise. We have to pray someone who likes hockey will buy a stake in the team.

Scott

February 7th, 2010
1:50 pm

Good column, Jeff. The issue is not whether Atlanta can or will support hockey. History with the Flames and Thrashers shows that it has. Indeed the NHL teams have more often than not out drawn the Hawks in attendance. Certainly interest in the Thrashers has waned in the last 2 yrs. But Atlanta will not support a poor product resulting from incompetent management/ownership regardless of sport. (See the mid 70s, late 80s Braves, the Falcons at various times during the Rankin Smith era, the Pete Babcock Hawks) The Thrashers truly are the Pittsburgh Pirates of hockey: trying to compete on the cheap with young talent (and/or over-the-hill talent) with mediocre results, and then trading that talent, when developed and up for free agency, for prospects when they can’t afford to sign. Wash, rinse, repeat. Wonder why the Braves attendance has steadily declined in recent yrs? They seem to be implementing this business plan as well. (Well, at least they signed McCann)

Kovalchuk would not negotiate with this team in good faith because he, like Hossa and others before him, rightfully questioned ownership’s committment to competing for the Stanley Cup (Rutherford Seydel’s ridiculous assertion on opening night a couple a years ago notwithstanding). Can’t blame Thrashers for not meeting his demands. So what are you going to do? Fire Waddell? Waddell certainly has been abysmal at signing top tier UFAs, and the Zhitnik-Coburn and Tkacuk trades are right up there in the all time Atl GM Hall of Shame. But even if, say, Rick Dudley was GM (a move I believe should be made), you’d still have the ASG cluster-blob. Something has to be done to get new ownership that has at least a speck of interest in hockey, or at least someone other than Levenson. Maybe Bettman can facilitate that somehow.

Goldtimer

February 7th, 2010
1:53 pm

Any chance that Arthur Blank might be interested in buying the team? The ASG and Don Waddell both need to be replaced if this franchise is ever to be successful. As long as Blank stays away from the bench towards the end of the game, I think he would be the best answer to the Thrashers ills.

gcs

February 7th, 2010
2:22 pm

THANK YOU Commissioner Gary Bettman! Atlanta Spirit will not listen to us so maybe they will listen to you.

.

richham

February 7th, 2010
2:27 pm

The NHL has no one to blame but themselves. They signed off on the spirit as owners, and now they want to criticize them? I firmly believe that the Spirit owners are desperately trying to rid themselves of the franchise.

They still employ one of the worst GM on the planet, they consistently rig holes in the roster with cheap fill ins to save money, and they have no general concern or interest in hockey.

The NHL brought this on themselves. Don Waddell must be a fantastic salesman to keep his job for 10+ years and achieve absolutely nothing. Must be nice.

richham

February 7th, 2010
2:29 pm

Arthur Blank is too smart to waste money on the Thrashers.

SCN

February 7th, 2010
2:30 pm

Good column, Jeff. NHL Hockey seems to work in other sunbelt outposts such as Raleigh, Tampa, Dallas … perhaps being generally competitive and winning a Stanley Cup in those places had something to do with it, ya think? History going back to the Flames shows that Atlanta will support hockey … but Atlanta will not support mediocrity or worse regardless of sport. Thrashers have generally been worse. Need new, hockey-friendly ownership for sure, and a fresh start at GM (Rick Dudley) wouldn’t hurt either. Maybe Bettman can facilitate that.

RomeDawg

February 7th, 2010
2:35 pm

Jeff,

I try not to get on you too bad because I actually like your view on issues, but writing 7 Thrasher articles out of your last 10 is too much. I, like most Atlanta sports fans (See attendance for Thrasher games) don’t give a rats behind about hockey. Clearly the issues with the Thrashers are pretty simple: Cheap owners, poor talent evaluating by GM and a very small fan base. Time to write about something different, please. I even enjoy your UGA bashing articles more than this. The Atlanta Spirit is actually giving the Smith family a run for their money on bad sports ownership.

KnightInATL

February 7th, 2010
2:35 pm

SageinBlueland- Your post at 11:27 is dead on accurate. Waddell is a FRAUD, plain and simple. He is a weasel who tries to spin and skew facts and stats to convince others that things aren’t as bad as they seem….he talks in circles in vain attempts to convince us the glass is half full….while in fact, its bone dry. And yes, it is hilarious and somewhat sadistic listening to him try to remain positive and optimistic while failing to open his eyes to the utter failure that he has become.

Sorry, ASG. My entertainment dollars will NEVER again be spent on the Thrashers as long as Waddell is employed there. Thankfully we live in a city where we have other professional franchises who’s GM’s are at least somewhat coherent.

Ted Striker

February 7th, 2010
2:44 pm

Excellent article and insights. I wish other league commissioners were more like Bettman, and less like a cross between the chairman of Exxon and Chiang Kai-shek.

DZ

February 7th, 2010
2:48 pm

You idiots who want to shoot the messenger (Schultz) because he writes a “negative” article in your eyes, just don’t get it. Schultz has done the fans a great service just by making this call to Bettman. There are big problems in Blueland and we need to get on the NHL office’s radar. The Atlanta Spirit has put minimal effort into the Thrashers and it is hemorrhaging.

Losing Kovy (and not getting much in return) is more damaging then you will ever know.

tom

February 7th, 2010
2:50 pm

The only constant being Waddell is the major reason the Thrashers will be in another city in three years. Bad decisions across the board. Owners are happy to have an inept GM and limited attendance. So sad. Waddell would not have survived this long in another city and different owners.

Brendan

February 7th, 2010
2:59 pm

Well Jeff Schultz, I’m actually encouraged by Bettman’s words. I think he’ll fight to keep hockey in Atlanta. But will he fight to get Waddell removed, so that hockey can thrive in Atlanta? The Town Hall Meeting goers said that Bruce Levenson said, “We’re 100% behind Don Waddell.” And Waddell said, “I am not resigning.” So … uhh. How does one ’sugarcoat’ that, exactly?

In nine seasons and 10 years, this team hasn’t won a playoff game. Despite nine (9) Top 10 picks overall, and six (6) housed within the lottery draft. But yet, ownership sees no reason to hand the keys over to a different GM? How does Gary Bettman simply ignore that? When marquee player after marquee player leaves Atlanta, despite lucrative contract offers, what does that say about ‘player confidence’ in the organization? It tells me … the players have voted. The votes have been tabulated. And it’s unanimous. It’s a vote of “no confidence.”

IlliniDawg

February 7th, 2010
3:01 pm

How many kids play hockey in the Atlanta area? How many adults, whether southerners or transplants, grew up playing the game? Why is it a sin to say here what is perhaps the truth – that this is not a hockey town? I don’t get why folks who say so are crucified as being “dumb rednecks”. As someone whose family is originally from Buffalo and Ontario, I grew up exposed to a real hockey culture. Atlanta, sorry to say, is not – nor do I believe ever will be.

On the other hand, consider the changing demographics of the area, and soccer may be the best bet for a fourth sport in town. With all of the growth in the Latin American and West African communities, I think the potential for soccer is huge. And TONS of kids (as well as adults) play soccer.

Maybe the Thrashers need to go to my ancestral city of St. Catherines, or Winnepeg or Regina or Quebec City, And then maybe we should get an MLS franchise. As a fan of both sports, I honestly think that would be a better outcome.

BC

February 7th, 2010
3:05 pm

Tampa Bay Lightning sold the franchise to Jeff Vinik,whom said,”I will work my hardest to build the Lighting into a world-class organization.”
The Spirit Clowns sell our star player for two second rate players and a hockey puck.

jerry

February 7th, 2010
3:06 pm

It’s refreshing to see Jeff point out the real culprits instead of his usual banter of cozying up to the Kovy groupies and the Waddell haters.

jerry

February 7th, 2010
3:14 pm

Illini: Hockey is ten times the game that soccer is. Soccer is synonymous with boring if you’re speaking of a spectator sport. And the demographics you are speaking of, generally don’t buy tickets.

JJ

February 7th, 2010
3:15 pm

dz YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT

IlliniDawg

February 7th, 2010
3:17 pm

Jerry:

First of all, I’m not taking about whether you or I like one sport more than the other. I’m talking about whether MOST people in a geographic region would be fans of the sport.

Secondly, re. attendance, I would normally agree with you, but I have been to both Chicago Fire and Real Salt Lake games over the past 12 months, and in both places over half in attendance were Latino.