Archive for the ‘Thrashers / NHL’ Category

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 …

Continue reading While Bettman hides, Thrashers’ slow death near complete »

Bettman wants to make Thrashers’ sale hurt for Spirit

ockey fans celebrate at Portage and Main in downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba, after a report in The Globe and Mail newspaper that an NHL hockey team might move to Winnipeg, Thursday, May 19, 2011. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and True North Sports and Entertainment denied a deal has been reached to sell the Atlanta Thrashers to True North, which would relocate it to Winnipeg. (AP photo)

Hockey fans in Winnipeg aren't waiting for the official announcement: They were already celebrating the Thrashers' expected arrival on Thursday night. (AP photo)

Somebody who I trust — because he has been telling me that the Thrashers probably are going to wind up moving to Winnipeg for almost two years now — offered something else recently.

While it’s almost certainly too late to stop the train to Manitoba, Gary Bettman’s disdain for Bruce Levenson and the Atlanta Spirit is so great that wants to make it hurt financially for the Spirit.

I know. The last thing you really want to do right now is choose sides between Bettman and Levenson. Can they run into each other head first?

But if you’re looking for one microscopic scintilla of a possibility that the Thrashers’ move gets momentarily derailed, here it is: Bettman may be playing hardball. He not only wants the $60 million relocation fee that the NHL is mandating from True North Sports and Entertainment, he may want a share of …

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Forget Hawks, Thrashers — J.B. Smith has other issues (UPDATED)

Ed Peskowitz, Michael Gearon and Bruce Levenson are among the Atlanta Spirit owners looking to sell the Hawks, Thrashers and Philips Arena' operating rights.

Ed Peskowitz, Michael Gearon and Bruce Levenson are among the Atlanta Spirit owners looking to sell Hawks and Thrashers.

(UPDATED BELOW: 4:15 p.m.)

It remains to be seen if the Thrashers are sold and moved to Winnipeg, or if the Hawks and Philips Arena operating rights are sold to new ownership. But that’s the way to bet.

Also, don’t bet on J.B. Smith.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on Smith because appearances are that he’s just one more name in a sea of pretenders who claim to be interested in one or all of the Atlanta Spirit properties. But he and others have never taken the necessary steps to prove their financial worth (assuming they have sufficient worth).

Smith has been pimped by some as this shadowy, mysterious figure who was going to swoop in and buy the teams and arena and save the day. One of his mouthpieces is a guy named Jay Clemons, who has written about fantasy football for SI.com. Clemons, however, now doesn’t hide the fact that he is Smith’s …

Continue reading Forget Hawks, Thrashers — J.B. Smith has other issues (UPDATED) »

McCann saves Braves, who are in position to make move

Dan Uggla and Martin Prado trap Brian McCann for his ceremonial dirt shower after his walkoff home run in Braves' win. (AP photo)

Dan Uggla and Martin Prado trap Brian McCann for his ceremonial dirt shower after his walk-off home run in Braves' win. (AP photo)

On the last day of the homestand, the Braves were shut out for the first 8 2/3  innings, came to within one strike of blowing a series to the worst team in the National League and watched as Chipper Jones struck out three times with runners on base (twice looking)

It did not start out as a blueprint for winning a division.

“Not pretty,” Jones said.

Didn’t matter. The Braves left town after a 3-1 victory over Houston on Tuesday to begin a seven-game road trip at Arizona. They were two games behind Philadelphia in the National League East (pending the outcome of the Phillies’ game at St. Louis Tuesday night), after opening this homestand four games back.

When they return, don’t be surprised if they’re looking down the rest of the East.

The Braves found an improbable way to win a game: Brian McCann hit a two-out, two-strike, game-tying, pinch hit …

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Door isn’t closed but Thrashers’ picture still gloomy

This photo of Michael Gearon (left) and Bruce Levenson would suggest Thrashers' owners have been behind the team 100 percent. Pictures can be deceiving. (AJC photo)

This photo would suggest Michael Gearon (left) and Bruce Levenson have been passionate and dedicated owners of the Thrashers. Pictures can be deceiving. (AJC photo)

So now we can officially move one aspect of the Thrashers’ potential franchise relocation from the logical rumor to the fact category.

The AJC has confirmed that Thrashers’ ownership is in negotiations to sell the team to True North Sports and Entertainment, which would move the franchise to Winnipeg. While the negotiations have long been assumed, this is the first time somebody familiar with the NHL process has confirmed talks actually are taking place.

Does this mean the Thrashers’ move to Winnipeg is a done deal? No. Fact is, the Phoenix Coyotes’ move to Winnipeg seemed certain until the city of Glendale, Ariz., stunningly agreed to pay $25 million to the NHL — effectively funding the team — for at least one more season. But the odds still heavily favor the NHL losing its NHL franchise for the second time.

NHL …

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Is NHL abandoning Thrashers, Atlanta after rescuing others? (UPDATED with Bill Daly Q-and-A)

Gary Bettman was high profile in Atlanta prior to 2008 All-Star Game but not much since.

Gary Bettman was high profile in Atlanta prior to the NHL All-Star Game but not much since.

(UPDATED at 4:50 p.m. after my Q-and-A with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly. Full transcript follows the column.)

This isn’t to absolve the Atlanta Spirit of responsibility for all this because, as we’ve come to learn, stability and agenda of ownership almost always dictate whether or not a sports franchise succeeds — and the Spirit has long had different agendas for the  Hawks and Thrashers.

This certainly isn’t to absolve Don Waddell, the Thrashers’ former long-time general manager and current team president, of responsibility because as the only executive who has been on campus from day one, he had the biggest hand in putting an inferior product on the ice for too many seasons.

But where is the NHL in all this?

Has Gary Bettman, the commissioner, stood at a pulpit on the corner of Marietta and Centennial Olympic Park Drive the way he did in the desert outpost of Glendale, Ariz., …

Continue reading Is NHL abandoning Thrashers, Atlanta after rescuing others? (UPDATED with Bill Daly Q-and-A) »

How they really stand — from Braves (1) to Jacket hoops (10)

Original Caption:  	101010 Atlanta : Braves pinch hitter Eric Hinske is celebrated by teammate for his 2-run homer for a 2-1 lead over the Giants during 8th inning of the Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Turner Field on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2010 at Turner Field in Atlanta. Hyosub Shin hshin@ajc.com

Expect Braves to do some postseason celebrating, and maybe win division. (Hyosub Shin)

I was going to wait until after the NBA playoffs to reveal this year’s edition of the, “How They Really Stand” rankings, just on the chance that Hawks guard Jeff Teague (based on his Monday playoff debut) suddenly morphs into Oscar Robertson and Atlanta’s NBA franchise becomes the standard for area sports teams. But I’ll take a chance. Following are my completely unscientific rankings of the local pro and major college teams. (No Georgia State football yet; longer resume is needed). It’s impossible to do this without somebody reacting, “Schultz, you’re an idiot.” But I get that at breakfast every morning, so I’m OK with it.  Rankings are based on current strength of team, franchise/program stability and direction. Last year’s rankings are in parenthesis.

♦ 1. Braves (2): They’ve tripped out of the starting gate. But this is too good of a roster to stay down for long. They have the pitching …

Continue reading How they really stand — from Braves (1) to Jacket hoops (10) »

Poll time: Where would Hawks’ series win over Magic rank?

Record producer Jermaine Dupri was among those to witness the Hawks pull to within one win of a series upset over Orlando. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Record producer Jermaine Dupri was among those who witnessed Hawks close in on series upset over Orlando. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

If the Hawks win any of the next three games — their first chance coming Tuesday night in Orlando — they’ll upset the Magic in the first round of the NBA playoffs. I’m not an Atlanta native but I’ve lived here long enough to know postseason series (or game) wins are not the norm for the pro teams.

The Hawks were 9-2 underdogs to Orlando to win this series. The online sportsbook Bodog also had them at 30-1 to win in five games, 9-1 to win it in six and 20-1 to win it in seven.

Here are what I believe are the top four postseason moments/upsets. There’s room for No. 5, which we’ll get to shortly.

♦ 1.) Braves win the World Series (1995): Duh. Tom Glavine’s one-hitter and David Justice’s home run in game 6 against Cleveland gave Atlanta its only championship in the four major pro sports.

♦ 2.) Falcons go to the Super Bowl (1998): Morten Andersen kicks the …

Continue reading Poll time: Where would Hawks’ series win over Magic rank? »

GM rankings: Is Braves’ Wren or Falcons’ Dimitroff on top?

falcons.0507+CC14

Dimitroff hired Mike Smith and rebuilt team.

Wren got Braves back to playoffs.

Wren got Braves back to playoffs.

Only two weeks after Braves general manager Frank Wren received a contract extension, the Falcons have signed GM Thomas Dimtroff to a new deal.

This suggests a level of stability in sports franchises that we’re genuinely not used to in Atlanta. It also got me thinking: Who’s the best GM in Atlanta pro sports?

The candidates are: Wren, whose moves helped get the Braves back to the playoffs last season; Dimitroff, who rebuilt the franchise into one that has had three straight winning seasons and two playoff berths; the Thrashers’ Rick Dudley, who’s done a solid job with no budget to work with; the Hawks’ Rick Sund, who presides over the only team that has made the playoffs three straight years.

Here is my ranking. Take a look. Then feel free to agree, mock and/or ridicule. I know you’re not shy.

♦ 1.) DIMITROFF: After the Michael Vick and Bobby Petrino infernos, nobody inherited a worse situation than …

Continue reading GM rankings: Is Braves’ Wren or Falcons’ Dimitroff on top? »

It’s shameful to blame fans if Thrashers move to Winnipeg

The Atlanta Spirit pie chart never worked. The Thrashers' failures are not the fault of fans.

The Atlanta Spirit pie chart never worked. The Thrashers' failures are not the fault of fans.

(Updated: 2 p.m.)

Like warped kismet, the Thrashers were scheduled to face the Phoenix Coyotes Thursday night, the same week one of the Atlanta Spirit’s captains of disaster declared a relative state of emergency.

There should have been viewing parties in Winnipeg for this, because there’s a very good chance one of these teams is ending up in Manitoba. These rumors have been circulating for months, and not just from the usual Canadian chamber-of-commerce-type knuckleheads who have a vested interest. The rumors are like dominoes, and they fall like this:

♦ 1) The NHL has assured Winnipeg it is getting a team back.

♦ 2) The Coyotes, who’ve had financial issues since moving from Winnipeg in 1996, went into bankruptcy and now are operated by the league, would move back to Winnipeg if current arena refinancing issues can’t be resolved.

♦ 3) Should Phoenix resolve its problems and not …

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