Minus NHL, did Atlanta just drop to Triple A of sports towns?

Here's a word we didn't see in banners very often at Thrashers' games: playoffs.

There's a banner we did not see very often in Philips Arena for Thrashers' games: playoffs.

Good morning. Did Atlanta just drop out of the majors?

This probably would carry a little more weight if Los Angeles still had an NFL team (which remains the funniest thing in sports, only because it drives Roger Goodell nuts). But when Atlanta was officially mugged by Atlanta Spirit, LLC and the NHL on Tuesday and the Thrashers were sold and moved to Winnipeg, the city dropped out of an elite group. There are only 12 remaining metropolitan areas that still have teams in all four pro sports leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL). Those 12: New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco (San Jose), Boston, Washington, Detroit, Phoenix (until the Coyotes move), Minneapolis, Denver and Miami.

Atlanta is now the second-biggest market (behind only Los Angeles) that doesn’t have teams in all four leagues. The second tier group of seven cities with teams in three leagues: L.A. (no NFL), Atlanta (no NHL), Houston (no NHL), Tampa (no NBA), Cleveland (no NHL), St. Louis (no NBA) and Pittsburgh (no NBA).

What I’ve done below is list every U.S. city with at least one pro sports team. This was kind of a tedious exercise, so if I missed a team let me know and I’ll recommend you for an editor’s opening.

I’ve ranked the cities by what Nielsen refers to as “designated market area,” which factors in some secret combination of population, media outlets and I think number of Wendy’s. Atlanta is the No. 8 media market in the country. The only others in the top 15 without teams in the four sports are No. 2 L.A., No. 10 Houston, No. 13 Seattle (which has only two teams after the Sonics were highjacked) and No. 14 Tampa-St. Petersburg.

Here’s the list. And here’s my question for you: Did Atlanta just become less of a major sports city without the Thrashers?

Let me know what you think.

(Market rank, metropolitan area (sports): MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL.)

1. New York-New Jersey (4): Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Knicks, Nets, Rangers, Islanders, Devils.

2. Los Angeles (3): Dodgers, Angels, Lakers, Clippers, Kings, Ducks.

3. Chicago (4): Cubs, White Sox, Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks.

4. Philadelphia (4): Phillies, Eagles, Sixers, Flyers.

5. Dallas/Ft. Worth (4): Rangers, Cowboys, Mavericks, Stars.

6. SanFran/SJ/Oak (4): Giants, A’s, 49ers, Raiders, Warriors, Sharks.

7. Boston (4): Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, Bruins.

8. Atlanta (3): Braves, Falcons, Hawks.

9. Washington (4): Nationals, Redskins, Wizards, Capitals.

10. Houston (3): Astros, Texans, Rockets.

11. Detroit (4): Tigers, Lions, Pistons, Red Wings.

12. Phoenix (4): Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Suns, Coyotes.

13. Seattle (2): Mariners, Seahawks.

14. Tampa-St. Pete. (3): Rays, Buccaneers, Lightning.

15. Minneapolis-St. Paul (4): Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves, Wild.

16. Denver (4): Rockies, Broncos, Nuggets, Avalanche.

17. Miami (4): Dolphins, Marlins, Heat, Panthers.

18. Cleveland (3): Indians, Browns, Cavaliers.

19. Orlando (1): Magic.

20. Sacramento (1): Kings.

21. St. Louis (3): Cardinals, Rams, Blues.

22. Portland (1): Trailblazers.

23. Pittsburgh (3): Pirates, Steelers, Penguins.

24. Charlotte (2): Panthers, Bobcats.

25. Indianapolis (2): Pacers, Colts.

26. Raleigh-Durham (1): Hurricanes.

27. Baltimore (2):Orioles, Ravens.

28. San Diego (2): Padres, Chargers.

29. Nashville (2): Predators, Titans.

31. Salt Lake City (1): Jazz.

32. Kansas City (2): Chiefs, Royals.

33. Cincinnati (2): Bengals, Reds.

34. Columbus (1): Blue Jackets.

35. Milwaukee (2): Bucks, Brewers.

37. San Antonio (1): Spurs.

45. Oklahoma City (1): Thunder.

47. Jacksonville (1): Jaguars.

50. Memphis (1): Grizzlies.

51. New Orleans (2): Saints, Hornets.

52. Buffalo (2): Bills, Sabres.

70. Green Bay-Appleton (1): Packers.

(Canadian cities with teams not included: Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg.)

By Jeff Schultz

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

279 comments Add your comment

JV

June 1st, 2011
9:35 am

Hot Carl

June 1st, 2011
9:37 am

FIRE RODNEY HO!!!

Smitty

June 1st, 2011
9:39 am

No NHL team really makes you think that??? Who cares. The spelling bee and women’s college softball get better ratings.

Hot Carl

June 1st, 2011
9:39 am

Also…

DID NOT READ

Jeff Schultz

June 1st, 2011
9:40 am

Smitty — Really? That’s the best ya got?

nobody

June 1st, 2011
9:41 am

Im not sure if this is just male teams, but we do have the Dream….

Jeff Schultz

June 1st, 2011
9:43 am

JV — Fixed, thanks.

PMC

June 1st, 2011
9:44 am

It just kind of sticks out as an outlier. Houston is similar, but then, it shows just how poorly it’s gone for the NHL when it comes to growing interest in the sport.

They do some things well like the outdoor classics… but seriously, the teams worth paying to see in the league only add up to about 8.

P C

June 1st, 2011
9:45 am

Milwaukee still had the Brewers in MLB last time I looked. Easy to overlook in that long list!

ATL

June 1st, 2011
9:47 am

Perhaps Metro NY can spare a hockey team since they have three(?)– The NHL traded a major market of 5.5M for one (albeit Canadian) of less than 700K that will play in an arena with a capacity of 15,000 (in all but their worst years the Thrashers drew at least this many)– perhaps the NHL has a burning desire to now own two teams in bankruptcy, otherwise its not a move that makes much sense…

Hockey In Florida

June 1st, 2011
9:49 am

Heck, I live in Florida and didn’t realize that Miami had a NHL team. But then, a lot of people who live in Miami don’t know that they have a MLB team.

PMC

June 1st, 2011
9:49 am

Perhaps there just isn’t enough talent in the NHL? Atlanta sure couldn’t find it, although DWad could fall in a bucket of talent and come out with a loser.

Still, 8 out of what 30 or so with a legitimate shot to win?

The NBA is similar in that you have teams like the Hawks, with no hope of ever eclipsing the 2nd round because they don’t have the stars to win with.

Going to see pro sports has become a luxury item, it’s not worth sitting so far away when it’s better on TV. In reality, it’s simply not worth paying $75 a pop to see a bunch of above average non stars night after night.

The NFL is only 8 games. Hockey and Basketball are horrible in terms of value. It’s one reason the NBA is in for probably a year off next year…. just when they are getting really fun to watch again.

Remarkable

June 1st, 2011
9:49 am

NO. We did not drop to AAA of sports towns. We are just not that in to Hockey. It is the least of the five major sports (If you consider NASCAR a sport?). We are a major college spots area amd have arguably some of the best pro sports teams as a whole in the country. The Braves are always in the hunt, the Hawks did get into the second round of the playoffs, and the Falcons look to be on the verge of a Super Bowl run.
How foolish to even consider that we are not a major sports market just because we don’t have enough yankees to support a hockey team. Show me one team on that list besides Dallas that is in the south and has a thriving major league hockey team. Florida teams do not count, they have a large northern population to draw from.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

June 1st, 2011
9:49 am

The Thrashers moving means nothing to how the nation perceives the city of Atlanta. The city is thought of as Braves, Falcons and college football. That speaks volumes as to why they are no longer here along with pitiful ownership. Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda type of franchise the Thrashers where.

Kdawg

June 1st, 2011
9:50 am

Is MLS still not considered a major sport Jeff? Regardless, there is no denying that this is a major setback despite the fact most sports fans in Atlanta showed a disregard for hockey. Your list of cities with less than 4 sports teams speaks volumes about the state of Atlanta pro sports teams and fans today. We’re not in a class with NY or Chicago or God forbid even Phoenix. We’re now on par with Tampa.

Luke

June 1st, 2011
9:50 am

You gotta have a market for hockey in order for it to matter. Had it been the Braves or the Falcons, people would have been up in arms against them moving. But for some reason, only a couple hundred people showed up to “buy” season tickets. Its just too damn hot down here for ice.

Remarkable

June 1st, 2011
9:51 am

Send us a minor league hockey team and everyone should be happy. Either that or encourage everyone to go see the UGA and Ga. Tech club Hockey teams play. They are actually pretty good.

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Backwater of Irrelevancy

June 1st, 2011
9:51 am

Atlanta will always be a minor league backwater as long as the Georgia Bulldogs are included in its teams.

Worst to First

June 1st, 2011
9:52 am

more like cutting the dead horse from the buggy, they were bad and stayed bad since they got here, loosing the team will most likely help rather than hinder.If a team doesn’t win and has no chance of winning a championship ever then its like its not here anyway. Same thing is happening to the hawks,slower of course because they win regular season games but they cant contend for it all so whats the point?

Chris

June 1st, 2011
9:52 am

If the NHL is such a great product, why do they have a revenue sharing contract with NBC to broadcast their games? The last sports organization to have that is the old Arena Football League.

Losing the NHL does not make the greater Atlanta area a AAA town. It makes the NHL a nitch sport that only gets ratings when they play holiday games out side on football and baseball stadiums.

The NHL moved a team from a top ten market to a market that makes them a small market team. They will have problems bringing in free agents just like Calgary and Edmonton. When the Canadian dollar falls the roof will cave in on these teams.

I am glad I stopped going to games after the ASG bought the team. Hockey is a great sport, but the NHL is run worse then baseball.

Remarkable

June 1st, 2011
9:54 am

Don’t sign the petition to keep the Thrashers. Even their name was lame

Puck Like A Porn Star

June 1st, 2011
9:54 am

YES!!! This is officially a third tier city.

Look out below: soon Atlanta won’t even be the capital of the Southeast, and the provincial idiots here want it that way.

Truly pathetic.

PMC

June 1st, 2011
9:54 am

Atlanta is KILLING in College Football which is a vastly more popular sport in this region than Hockey.

ATL

June 1st, 2011
9:54 am

To be fair– try counting the WNBA and MLS– we are 1 and 1 on that count…

Remarkable

June 1st, 2011
9:55 am

Don’t sign the petition. We will not miss hockey.

IceColdATLien

June 1st, 2011
9:55 am

My guess is that 95% of America doesn’t know which station to turn on for an NHL game, and most of the rest probably didn’t know the ATL even had a team… much less that we lost one. Nobody cares about hockey below the rust belt unless they have nobody else to care for (Nashville anyone?).

I just wish the Atlanta Spirit Group were banished to middle-of-nowhere Canada, too!

Let NONE in

June 1st, 2011
9:56 am

The only thing that matters to me now is UGA Football. Hawks, Falcons, Braves and Atlanta Dream are DEAD to me.

Billsen

June 1st, 2011
9:57 am

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/saveourthrashers/signatures

Sign the petition to the NHL Board of Governors to keep the Thrashers in Atlanta.

Chris

June 1st, 2011
9:58 am

Smitty does bring up a good point, Jeffy. When ESPN had the NHL, the World Series of Poker got better ratings.

IceColdATLien

June 1st, 2011
9:59 am

A bit late for that, Billsen. Hate to be the one to inform you…

Jeff Schultz

June 1st, 2011
10:01 am

Nobody — Yes, just male pro sports teams.

Jeff Schultz

June 1st, 2011
10:02 am

Smitty, Chris, other — I won’t debate NHL TV ratings. They’ve always been awful. Two long-standing problems: 1) Sport has never translated well on TV; 2) NHL doesn’t know how to market its product. Neither of those two things means it’s not a great sport or entertaining product.

Jeff Schultz

June 1st, 2011
10:03 am

Kdawg — Nope, not throwing MLS into this equation either (no offense to MLS fans). Most would agree there are four major sports leagues.

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Puck Like A Porn Star

June 1st, 2011
10:05 am

Btw, WNBA is in its 15th year, and MLS is around 13 years old, so including those franchises in this list would provide a clearer picture of the sports landscape. Women’s Pro Soccer is still in its infancy since it returned, but give it time (especially with the Atlanta Beat’s beautiful new stadium).

WNBA and MLS are on ESPN, unlike hockey, so at least they get exposure, rather than a few games on NBC and a cable network no one can find.

Triple L

June 1st, 2011
10:05 am

Last I checked we are in the south football is king baseball is our summer sport and basketball is what we watch when neither football or baseball are on. As long as we are not losing any of those three sports I belive most georgians could care less. For crying out loud I think college baseball gets better ratings then then hockey here ever did.

IceColdATLien

June 1st, 2011
10:05 am

The real question should be, “Minus Atlanta, did the NHL just become a minor league?”

How can a league lose a team in a top-10 market and still call itself real? I know the NFL isn’t in LA, but that’s more politics than anything else and they have other close-by teams for football fans to get their fix. Seriously, the combo of pathetic owners and apathetic fans spelled ultimate doom for the Thrashers.

This has nothing to do with ATL’s status as a sports town. It actually might be a better sports town now that resources won’t be wasted supporting that sad sport. I don’t think there’s any reason to even be discussing this. Losing an NHL team didn’t hurt ATL the first time around, and I don’t see any negatives the second time.

Tirpitz

June 1st, 2011
10:06 am

Interesting list. However, from a Canadian perspective, I have to point out there is one significant sports category which is completely different between the US and Canada – college sports. Up here, university athletics are a niche interest, football being the only one with any regular national TV exposure, while basketball, volleyball, and hockey are noticed only during the national finals. On the other hand, March Madness is a major Canadian TV property, and many people are busy following their favourite US college football team, despite never having attended any US college. meanwhile, you know where college sports ranks in your own interests.

As for your list of covering the four ‘major’ pro sports, the only Canadian city to have a foot in all four camps is Toronto, which has the Blue Jays (MLB), Raptors (NBA), Maple Leafs (NHL), and Argonauts (CFL). As well, the NFL’s Buffalo Bills play one game per season in Toronto, and covetous eyes are being cast south at the possibility of buying the franchise the instant Ralph Wilson dies. (Not all vultures live in Winnipeg.)

One other note – the Raptors, Maple Leafs, and MLS’s FC Toronto are all owned by the same conglomerate, MLSE, which is probably at least as hated as Atlanta Spirit. So far, fan disapproval has been expressed by ugly soccer fan chants and some schmuck throwing a box of waffles on the ice at a Leafs’ game.

Finally, while I am happy to see hockey back in Winnipeg, I wish a way could have been found that did not cost other hockey fans their franchise. RIP Thrashers, gone too soon.

Chris

June 1st, 2011
10:07 am

By the way Jeffy, does this make you a AAA writer?

Jeff Schultz

June 1st, 2011
10:08 am

IceColdATLien: ”The real question should be, “Minus Atlanta, did the NHL just become a minor league? How can a league lose a team in a top-10 market and still call itself real?”
… Funny. I never thought of it that way.

Billy Bob

June 1st, 2011
10:08 am

Nobody here gave a darn about Hockey quit crying. When I found out that only 200 people showed up to the Thrashers Rally told me all I needed to know.

Time

June 1st, 2011
10:10 am

I wish our supposed Atlanta columnists would quit trying to tear down this city all the time with the “not a good sports city” and junk like that.

The NHL is a second rate league, with a third rate commish. The NHL doesn’t deserve Atlanta. Not the other way around. And if we’re going to take away points for losing a meaningless NHL team, the city and surrounding state should get points for the HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of people we put into various college stadiums across the south every football weekend. If you include college football in the mix, that puts maybe only Dallas ahead of Atlanta.

2mins

June 1st, 2011
10:11 am

Losing the Thrashers will change nobodys thoughts about Atlanta. First off, most of the U.S. didn’t even know or care that Atlanta had NHL hockey, and in 2 weeks, nobody will care that they did.

CLD

June 1st, 2011
10:13 am

How can Houston be a smaller media market when it has 500K more residents than Atlanta?

Mike Wilcox

June 1st, 2011
10:14 am

What do you mean “until the Coyotes move”? Low blow man.

elroy

June 1st, 2011
10:14 am

Keep the NHL in Canada & the northern half of the U.S. The NHL should get out of Florida, Arizona & Texas. Give Alaska, Seattle, Utah & Indy a team.

Barry

June 1st, 2011
10:15 am

This is more of a reflection on the NHL than Atlanta. People here just are not into hockey. I love sports and will at least stop my channel surfing for at least a few minutes to peak in on lesser sports…but never hockey…which i never see anyway. I am only aware the NHL playoffs are on when Barry Melrose starts showing up on First Take on ESPN….I immediately turn the channel until that segment over.

Hayseed Dixie

June 1st, 2011
10:15 am

I love Atlanta, and I have no problems with college football being king here. I’m solidly in the majority.

Local flavor, you can’t escape it. Not every place needs to be the Exact Same™, with four major sports.

A Falcon Super Bowl victory is really the only thing truly lacking in this town.

TylerThe Creator

June 1st, 2011
10:15 am

I’d rather have an MLS Soccer team than a Hockey team any day. The Thrashers have always been terrible, could care less about them leaving.