While Bettman hides, Thrashers’ slow death near complete

Burning of a Winnipeg Jets banner this weekend likely won't stop move.  (AP photo))

Burning of a Winnipeg Jets banner this weekend likely won't stop move. (AP photo)

So the slow death continues.

Still waiting for commissioner Gary Bettman to show his face in Atlanta so he can reaffirm the NHL’s  “covenant with our fans” that he recently spoke so eloquently about.

Our Chris Vivlamore has a new blog posted this morning, stating that the last potential bidder to purchase the Thrashers and keep them in Atlanta is “probably, but not completely” out of the picture.

The team’s sale to a Canadian outfit and move to Winnipeg seems to have been a fait accompli for a while now, notwithstanding the constant denials by Bettman, Thrashers’ ownership and anybody else who’s worried more about their own reputation than what’s wrong or wrong.

The only reason we know the move won’t be completed today is that it’s Victoria Day in Canada and the banks are closed. Alas, Bettman/NHL (relocation fee) and Bruce Levenson/Atlanta Spirit must wait on their millions.

I’ve written a lot on this subject and I’ll have more to share with you if and when this deal is complete in the next few days. But I can’t top what was stated by Thrashers winger Chris Thorburn, who was interviewed by Fox 5’s Buck Lanford. There’s no embedding code for the video but here’s a link to it and the transcript of Thorburn’s comments:

“Just for owners to turn their backs on you, it kind of makes you mad. Obviously we don’t know every aspect of the deal and where they’re coming from because it hasn’t been publicly noted in the paper. But from everything we’ve heard, from rumors that we’ve heard, it’s discouraging just knowing that they’re trying to dump us. That makes a guy mad.”

Chris, I’m sure the fans thank you for speaking out.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

252 comments Add your comment

Empty Seats in Philips

May 23rd, 2011
10:59 am

Jay Clemons………paging Jay Clemons………..John Kincade on Line 1

Thrashersfan

May 23rd, 2011
11:00 am

Save the thrashers!

J(Z)

May 23rd, 2011
11:01 am

Thorburn has always been one of my favorites…that won’t change.

This Guy Right Here

May 23rd, 2011
11:01 am

Jeff,

Quite a few typos in this one. Anyway, thanks for the constant anti-ASG articles throughout the years.

Eileen

May 23rd, 2011
11:01 am

Gary Bettman loves money. Plain and simple. He can rot along with the ASG

Eileen

May 23rd, 2011
11:02 am

Also, JS, thanks for the headline. I love it how you don’t cut Bettman any slack.

Jeff Schultz

May 23rd, 2011
11:06 am

This Guy Right Here — Where?

Jeff Schultz

May 23rd, 2011
11:06 am

Eileen — Thank you.

Sage of Bluesland

May 23rd, 2011
11:10 am

On Friday, Kincade had the absolute nerve to state that the fans were to blame for this debacle. I’ve had continuing email correspondence where he has, in no uncertain terms, labeled “me” (and assuming those like me) as “the problem.”

It’s funny, though–when people began calling into his show to place the blame where it ultimately lay (OWNERSHIP!), he cut them off and then proclaimed he “didn’t want to talk about it anymore.” Pure cowardice. See, he was too busy fighting for scraps off of ownership/management’s table to be honest in his pitiful efforts at journalism.

The league office has their “fingerprints” on the crime-scene, as well. Would the allowance of a franchisee to fail as miserably as they have, to have been uncared for as they have, in a first-rate organization (like a Chik-Fil-A)? You know the answer.

I want to thank Jeff Schultz as being the only one at the AJC to ever care about the Thrashers in the attempt to make them improve their operations. No one else even tried.

The 790 boys this morning called Kincade on the carpet and deservedly so. My boycott of the Buck/Kincade show will commence immediately. I encourage all others to do so.

Joe-Bob-Friday-Revisionist is absolutely correct about one thing (ahead of time): The NHL is a “Mickey-Mouse” organization…and that’s with much apology to Disney….

Chris

May 23rd, 2011
11:11 am

It’s a little late for that Thrashersfan… I am not a hockey fan. But I know a lot of people who are. I feel for you guys who have put your heart and soul into this team. Anytime a team moves it has a big impact on the city as a whole. Who is to say that companies like Easton or Bauer aren’t looking at this and saying “Hockey can’t succeed in Georgia so let’s look elsewhere for our new factory.” Now I know that is a stretch but it certainly a possible outcome of this entire debacle.

William Satterwhite

May 23rd, 2011
11:12 am

When the truth finally comes out, I think we’ll all see that Bettman doesn’t really deserve any of the blame here except for maybe not pulling a Bud Selig and seizing control of the team years ago while ASG was locked in litigation (of course, as long the bills were being paid, I’m not sure he would have had any real ground to do so). The way this deal has been structured, there’s nothing Bettman can do- he can’t block ASG from selling the the Hawks and the arena separately and that is the primary issue here. If your previous column is correct, trying to squeeze as much as he can out of ASG’s profits from the sale is just about all he can do.

This isn’t Glendale where he has an arena owner literally bending over backwards to help him keep the team there, by all accounts ASG has been using a Thrashers-less arena as a sales pitch for the Hawks and the arena.

tonyb

May 23rd, 2011
11:22 am

Jeff, you have been the voice of reason in this town concerning the Thrashers for a long time. Sadly, some did not want to hear the truth, but that can be expected when one is so emotionally involved with a sports team.

Saying that, losing the Thrashers to Winnipeg is a blow to the City. But its a much bigger blow to the NHL. This city will continue to grow and thrive, with or without NHL presence. Yes, the recession in the short term as taken its toll, but that won’t go on forever. This market will not shrink, nor will its other sports teams suffer. The NHL is taking a very short term view here, and its just lost one the biggest and richest cities in the US. That is no way to run a pro sports league.

Yes, I loved the Thrashers. But I love my city more.

Bluelander

May 23rd, 2011
11:22 am

Other than working “behind the scenes” and saying we are not shelling out any $$$ to keep the team here through an assistant (a move we can all understand given the economy), why hasn’t Mayor Reed or for that matter Gov. Deal taken a public stance on this. Now that this charade is just about played out, it is time for the Mayor and Gov to chime in. C’mon Mayor and Gov. tell the NHL to shove it and demand the ASG divest themselves of what remains and get the h.e. double hockey sticks out of town. Our city and our state got played big time on this. Mark Bradley is probably right. In the end it means little but we just got socked in the face.

SC Ace

May 23rd, 2011
11:23 am

I bet Chris Thorburn is more angry about the fact that he’s now learning he’ll have to winter in the friggin’ Winnipeg tundra instead of Atlanta.

Matt from MN

May 23rd, 2011
11:25 am

It’s just criminal, absolutely criminal, the way the fans in the town have been treated by both the Atlanta Scumbag Group and the NHL. The sad thing is watching the Conference Finals, seeing how great the game can be, how energized the fans are and realizing that it will NEVER happen here.

docsbro

May 23rd, 2011
11:26 am

I just wrote the best comments and the computer lost them in Internet purgatory…I don’t even care enough to rewrite them…

Sage you are right and the only solice we might get is that DW will finally be fired and leave MY town. Should have happened at least 8 years ago!!

tonyb

May 23rd, 2011
11:30 am

Sage of Bluesland*- I have often disagreed with you and your methods concerning the Thrashers. But there is nothing in your post that I can’t disagree with. I do think you saw what the NHL and ASG really were long before the rest of the fan base did. And for all the faithful fan loyal to the product, they got walk out on by the league and ownership. Sad day Sage, sad, sad day.

docsbro

May 23rd, 2011
11:32 am

That is solace………… and @Matt you are right!! My wife is from Buffalo and we had a great ride with them a few years ago. Playoff hockey is better than any other sport…the action and physicalness of football with the drama of baseball perfect playoff atmosphere.

Also, I REALLY wish Kincaide would go back to Philly!!! He never has truly embraced the teams of Atlanta and he should go back home!!

Herschel Talker

May 23rd, 2011
11:35 am

FIRE MARK RICHT

[...] Journal Constitution:  While Bettman hides, Thrashers slow death near complete.  The Thrashers fans are going to be left wondering, why Phoenix but not [...]

K. Sampson

May 23rd, 2011
11:40 am

Does anyone actually think Bettman & the NHL want to move a team from Atlanta to Winnipeg? Listen, I’m a Canadian & for sentimental reasons, I’m glad that Winnipeg is getting a team back but I also hate that it has to be at the expense of anyone else. It’s depressing & I have nothing but sympathy for anyone who supported their team. Undoubtably, it feels rotten. But let’s be honest. This is about the terrible mismanagement of the ownership group – nothing more. Even Gary Bettman – one of the more widely detested people in all of Canada can’t wait to be done with the Thrashers owners. It has zero to do with the fans or the Atlanta market, which I think everyone agrees is vastly superior to Winnipeg. If City Council felt it was a priority to keep the team & fork over cash, the team would stay. If there was a well heeled person, group or local company that wanted to own the team, the team would stay. Bettman doesn’t want this team to move – but without the finacial backing of the City or another ownership group, what choice does he really have? If Glendale City Council hadn’t ponied up (and a lot of people think their decision was a foolish ransom to pay & that the team is still doomed), the Coyotes would have been the 1st to go, not Atlanta.

Patrick in Canada

May 23rd, 2011
11:40 am

Sorry Atlanta, but you’ve lost your team. Canadians know how it feels too, we lost the Nordiques and the Jets in the ’90’s because the Canadian dollar was in the toilet. This despite the fact the teams sold out almost every game. Hockey is religion in Canada much like baseball is in the US. Even Canadian based teams that continually fail to make the playoffs sell out every night and merchandizing is a huge revenue producer. I watched a clip of your rally to keep the Thrashers and it was underwhelming to say the least, 200 people thats it. When the Jets left in ‘96 over 30,000 showed up for the rally. Its no secret in Canada that Gary Bettman dislikes this country has undermines Hockey in Canada at every turn. He’s been fighting the return of another franchise to this Country for three or four years now. But this is inevitable, other US based teams will follow suit in the next year or two. Our dollar is worth more than yours and the fan base is unstoppable. The Coyotes are done and otherSouthern US teams are on the chopping block. Canadian cities like Hamilton and Quebec city will be their new destinations. Again, sorry about the loss of your team but they’ll flourish in Winnipeg and will be successful, take solace in that.

reebok

May 23rd, 2011
11:41 am

a less-than-mediocre team with poor players, poor coaching, no leadership and the worst management in (possibly) all of professional sports. good riddance. can we get the knights back? they played hard.

da'boomer

May 23rd, 2011
11:42 am

Jeff, I appreciate your straight up reporting on this sad state of affairs holding this collection of liars accountable for their actions. As someone that still hasnt gotten over the Flames departure, I cannot believe this is happening again.

blazerdawg

May 23rd, 2011
11:43 am

Well said TonyB. Thank you JS for the support – you were great on WSB last night as well.

PMC

May 23rd, 2011
11:45 am

Cheers Patrick. Enjoy the team.

PoweRForgeD

May 23rd, 2011
11:47 am

Not all of the southern teams are failing. San Jose was packed yesterday, and from what I hear they are a somewhat profitable team. Nashville is on the up and up.

Although I have to admit, there were alot of Vancouver Canuck fans there, alot of Canadians. Hell even Neil Young was there wearing a Manitoba moose hat.

Coach

May 23rd, 2011
11:48 am

Thanks, Patrick. I’d say the sports religion in the US is football, though.

kracker

May 23rd, 2011
11:48 am

On Bettmen being blameless: One thing he didn’t do that he colud and should have done is speak more forcefully about the NHL wanting/needing to keep the team in Atlanta. There is the new deal w/ NBC he could have used as a talking point about not wanting to dilute NBC’s interest by removing NHL hockey from a major or words to that effect. He could have stressed the fact that the team attracted adequate fan support until the owners began squabling and suing one another and thusly, funding the team in an inadequate manner. Whatever talks Bettman had with local governments or corporate entities, if any, could have perhaps been a bit more public simply to generate more local press awareness. I’m guessing on that one. The league could have placed full-page ads in the AJC, run local TV ads supporting their product in the Southeast in general and Atlanta in particular. There is all sorts of support that could have been done in a more general sense such as having league representatives either appear at youth events at our ice rinks or organize such events themselves.

In short, the league made zero efforts to support Atlanta. I now realize that the league most likely abandoned this market when these owners decended in to their self-imposed lawsuit chaos. I thought the Belkin mess was holding back the Spirit group from aedquately funding the team. Silly me. That 5-year lawsuit was the only thing keeping the Thrashers in Atlanta. I hope to soon never see or hear the initials of the ownership group again. The same goes for their name.

kracker

May 23rd, 2011
11:49 am

Oh yeah, there is the little matter of the first time ever $60M relocation fee. A little bribery can certainly help to grease the skids, eh?

Ox Baker

May 23rd, 2011
11:50 am

ASG=MoFo’s.
Winnipeg= take care of our Thrashers, cause our low-life, scumbag, mercenary owners certainly didn’t.
This should result in a curse upon asg.

Um

May 23rd, 2011
11:51 am

“Again, sorry about the loss of your team but they’ll flourish in Winnipeg and will be successful, take solace in that.”

Can we get that in writing? What happens when they miss the playoffs every year?

Two Line Pass

May 23rd, 2011
12:01 pm

I too was upset to hear Kincade’s rant on blaming the fans for not supporting the team. It is like that Restaurant analogy: a new restaurant opens up in a great location, many people at first flock to but the restaurant serves and continues to serve you bad food. What happens, people stay away, then the restaurant before they close their doors say that if more people would have shown up then they would have served you better food!! That analogy just does not fly.

Even if Thrashers fans packed the place every single night and the team continued to be lousy then what would have been managements reason to get any better?? If you provide this town with a winner, fans support it. The Falcons are a great example of this, fans believe in Arthur Blank and his organization and support them with sell outs.

Too bad the team is leaving town but the blame is on the ASG and the Thrashers management (mainly Waddell) and not the fans Kincade!

j nes

May 23rd, 2011
12:05 pm

According to Dante, the 8th circle of Hell is for the fraudulent, and the souls trapped there are eternally frozen in ice. That is kind of ironic for the former owners of a hockey team isn’t it.

Rot slow ASG.

Nate

May 23rd, 2011
12:07 pm

Chris Thorburn = my new hero.

B. Thenet

May 23rd, 2011
12:10 pm

Bettman can find several people to go public about their interest in the Yotes which they are trying to sell for nearly $100 million more than the Thrashers, can’t find one for the Thrashers?

Won’t even make a deal regarding attendance like he was going to do in Nashville….heck never even gave a STH target to hit this spring.

Bettman and the NHL Board of Governors are complicit in this, they want their damn money. The owners of Boston and Philly run the BOG, no wonder the Boston media, including the Bruins own employee Jack Edwards, has been more abusive to the Thrashers than many Canadian outlets.

In the end the fans will be blamed, and the NHL will end up in a dire situation a decade from now when the tanking Canadian dollar puts several of their franchises at risk yet again and forces another round of relocation South.

nechopper

May 23rd, 2011
12:11 pm

While I am happy to see the return of the NHL to Winnipeg, I understand the anger the Thrasher fans feel of the lost of thier team. 15 years ago we lost the Jets to what Bettman wanted. He wanted to move teams to large T.V. markets. Now tomorrow Bettman will be here (in Winnipeg) to announce the return of the NHL. He did everything in his power to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix for one more year just so he didnt have to eat crow while watching the team moved back to Winnipeg. Now Atlanta gets to see a loss of a team and I feel for the fans there and hope they dont have a negative feeling towards Winnipeg but towards Bettman and the teams owners. Bettmans last ditch effort to save face is he wont let our new team be called the “Winnipeg Jets” no, but it might be called the “Manitoba Jets”. I still will wear my Thrashers shirt to the games at the MTS centre in respect for where they came, but still chant “GO JETS GO”.

LAC

May 23rd, 2011
12:14 pm

I always thought bettman was a good guy and was good for the NHL and the fans… NO LONGER !

His disappearing deuring all this is TOO MUCH, and bill daly and his baldheaded smirk at Atlanta Fans !

I will NEVER NEVER NEVER watch, attend or buy anything NHL ever again. The ONLY saving grace would be for bettman to after he announces the Thrashers move, it that Atlanta and Kansas City will get expansion teams in two years, Nothing more, Nothing Less !

He has shown he is a fraud and cares less about Atlanta being in the NHL, but would rather have a NOTHING place like whinnerpeg, be an NHL town. Just watch when their dollar craps out, the team there will move as well, I HOPE SO !

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

chief of smoke

May 23rd, 2011
12:17 pm

New Potential Hawks and Phillips Areana Owners —BEWARE———— There are a lot of Thrasher fans that will Boycott the Hawks and Phillips Areana for the foreseeable future since you were not Interested in Buying the Thrasher

wpgJetsfan

May 23rd, 2011
12:18 pm

The mew team name in Winnipeg will be called “Manitoba Falcons” The Jets name was part of the old franchise and TNSE has decided to start from a clean slate. Sorry Fellow Winnipeggers but the JETS will not be used.

GO MANITOBA FALCONS GO!!!

Eileen

May 23rd, 2011
12:20 pm

Add me to the list of those who thought Kincade was out of line. I go to the games, and I was offended. Those games don’t come cheap. I totally respect anyone that does not attend the games due to the ASG, the losing and the inconsistent effort from some of the players. Also add in the fact that times are tough. Some of you may think you know what we pay for seats. I can tell you that you are wrong. With decent seats, parking, food, it is at least 200.00 a game for 2.

consumed

May 23rd, 2011
12:21 pm

Gonna make my 5 year old cry . . . thanks NHL guys, thanks. You’ve handled this whole thing about as bad as you could. Thanks for letting us all down easy. not . . .

dougefreshtb87

May 23rd, 2011
12:23 pm

Ive never blogged on the thrasher side of things before, but i will chime in my 2 cents anyway. I used to be a die hard hockey fan, grew up in ny rooting and never missing a ranger game. The lockout changed all that for me and have stayed away from the nhl ever since. That being said, this franchise never had a chance from the beginning. Ive come to learn this town will support anything as long as there is some effort put into the team. I know this bc i was at the only two hockey playoff games this town has seen and it was the loudest building ive ever been in. I work in the sports industry and even worked at philips arena for a time, so ive been in my fair share of buildings. The ownership group (i wont even refer them to them by name bc they are not even worth the acknowledgement) are cheapest and most dysfunctional group of men in the history of sports, hands down. I know thrasher fans are frustrated with bettman, but this is no way his fault. Glendale and here are two completely different situations. Im sure bettman is as frustrated with this group of owners as anyone else. He is about to lose a team in the 9th biggest market and the first ever in the U.S. I hope this buyout in someway doesn’t happen, but there is to much money transferring hands. RIP ATLANTA THRASHERS (1999-2011)

Winnipeg = Poverty

May 23rd, 2011
12:29 pm

As an outsider looking in it is pretty obvious to why the Thrashers are finished in Atlanta. The Thrashers and the NHL are being evicted by the Atlanta Spirit Group. This ownership believes through some sort of market research probably not available to the public, that having both the NBA & NHL operating out of the same building won’t work in Atlanta and weakens both franchises, so they prefer the NBA team remains and the NHL & Thrashers move on and that of course doesn’t include any plan for local ownership. Has happened before, when the New York Yankees needed a home they rented the Polo Grounds, then they acquired Babe Ruth outdrew the landlord New York Giants and the Giants the decided to evict the Yankees, this is how the original Yankee Stadium was born. There’s lots of questions on the internet why save Phoenix and not Atlanta? The Coyotes are the only major tenant in Jobing.com arena and thus they are wanted in Phoenix unlike Atlanta and therefore the NHL has bent over backwards to save them. The only way NHL hockey comes back Atlanta is someone with deep pocket acquires and builds a hockey-only arena.

j nes

May 23rd, 2011
12:35 pm

The fact that fans easily sold out the Thrashers playoffs games even after 7 miserable seasons of failure speaks volumes for the number and passion of hockey fans in Atlanta.

Alphare

May 23rd, 2011
12:38 pm

Hockey is a hard sell in the south. I watched exactly one hockey game in my life time. It’s a more thank OK. But I’ve never played the game, know no stars. Most importantly, it’s to start a conversation with friends about hockey.

So, Canada, you can have all the hockey teams in the US. I know hockey is better appreciated there. I can go up there to watch them if my interest strikes me again.

thesawch

May 23rd, 2011
12:48 pm

Atlanta even thou we are getting your team and by no means are any respectful Canadians dancing on the Thrashers grave we have all one thing in common and that is the hate for gary bettman and the way he treats all hockey fans. Sure teams in Montreal,NY and Philly have very succesful teams and no real contact with Bettman but in the smaller markets he is a moron.He would sell out his mother for a mere million dollars. If he has the guts to show up to Winnipeg he will be booed and drowned out. Actually it will not go over well so maybe he should just not show up. Any Daly can stay home also. I will always respect where the new team in Winnipeg came from and would welcome any of you if you ever travel to the north to watch a game or 2 in our winter. We will show you a great time. Atlantans you are always welcome in Winnipeg and you can wera your thrasher jersey as proud as we were ours(Jets jersey) when at the Coyotes games in Phoenix.Thanks

Thrashers Fan

May 23rd, 2011
12:58 pm

Thanks for the nice post and invite thesawch.

Section 119

May 23rd, 2011
1:08 pm

With the imminent departure of the Thrashers, ATL will descend from the ranks of US cities with all 4 major sports, to an MLB, NFL, NBA only city. That puts us in a group with Houston, Cleveland, Oakland and Milwaukee (if you give them the GB Packers). How’s that sound to you Mayor Reed, Gov. Deal, ACVB, Atlanta Sports Council, etc?