If the Thrashers left Atlanta, would anyone care? Oh, yes.

The Hamilton Spectator reported last week that a Vancouver-based group wanted to buy the Thrashers and move them to Ontario. Don Waddell, the team’s general manager, insists that cannot and will not happen, and there’s no reason we shouldn’t believe him.

Still, that got me to thinking: If the Thrashers left, would anybody miss them? (They ranked next-to-last among NHL teams in attendance, averaging 14,626 per home date.) So, via Twitter, I asked. And of 50 respondents, only four said they wouldn’t care if the Thrash went the way of the migratory Flames. A selected sampling:

John Bragg: “Aside from family, friends, and the basic necessities in life, there’s not much I wouldn’t trade to see Ilya [Kovalchuk] hoist the Cup in Philips.”

Chad Bryant: “This is like asking, ‘Would you miss your dog if it ran away?’ – except in this case, the dog is being stolen from you from rich and crazy Canadians.”

Catherine Olson: “I was born at Georgia Baptist Hospital in 1964. The myth that Southerners could not possibly like hockey kills me. I am so tired of every one assuming that all the hockey fans in Atlanta are transplants from up north. I am Southern and a hockey fan and better yet a Thrasher fan!”

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Lance Blair: “Following them is my second religion and going to Philips is my second church. I’d miss the fans, the excitement, and the promise of the team’s bright future … If they left now I might consider moving to their new home.”

Pat DeSilva: “It takes character to be a Thrashers fan. It is not for everyone, but we Thrashers fans would like to see the base group grow and it will as the team continues to improve. There is currently plenty of room on the bandwagon.”

Barry Tennihan: “I hate to admit it but I would not really lose any sleep if they left town. It would be a negative for the city since we try show that Atlanta is a ‘major league town.’ Unfortunately, most of the blame would have to go on the backs of the owners (or the Seven Stooges).”

Jeffrey T. Cape: “I wouldn’t miss the Thrashers a bit if they moved. I will admit that attending a Thrashers game in person is a lot of fun – even if I don’t fully grasp all the rules and nuances of hockey – but outside the arena I have no interest in them. I can’t explain why this is so, but I don’t follow them, wouldn’t miss them.”

Debbie Ott: “My kids are getting older but the one thing we all still enjoy is getting together and attending Thrasher games … I definitely would not be going downtown and spending a trainload of my discretionary income any more if the guys weren’t there.”

Brett Williams: “I’d be furious and empty. As a native Minnesotan and huge hockey fan and player, it was hard to survive prior to the Thrashers’ arrival. If they left, I’d be like a fish out of water – flipping and flopping and trying to figure out how to survive.”

Billy Lindahl: “I’m willing to cheer for the fourth-worst team in the league every year just to see them every season.”

Chris Bennett: “I wear the Michael Myers mask [at home games]. I would be very disappointed if the Thrashers left. I am a born and raised Atlantan, third generation in fact … Thrasher wins make my days a little better as much as losses make them a little worse.”

Yes, the Thrashers qualify as a niche sport, but it’s a vibrant niche that makes our city that much nicer. We would be diminished if they weren’t around. I mean, you don’t have to go to the High Museum 41 times a year, but isn’t it nice to know it’s there?

230 comments Add your comment

scott

May 14th, 2009
5:18 pm

step 1: FIRE DON WADDELL!!!

how is any fringe fan supposed to support this team when we won’t replace a GM that has shown, year after year, that he cannot put a competitive team on the ice.

Puck Drop Soup

May 14th, 2009
5:36 pm

Dearest Bradley:

I hope Don Waddell slugs both you and Jeff Schultz in your sissy mouths for all the THRASHERS bashing you goofballs do in this town.

The THRASHERS are an integral part of the Atlanta Sports Scene and have been for a decade now. Unfortunately, no one with any authority at the America-hating, Christian-bashing, Obama-kissing, hockey-averse AJC seems to have picked up on that yet.

It is bad enough that this sub-standard “newspaper” gives the THRASHERS such paltry positive coverage, but it actually seems like this rag has an Obama-caliber, NON-objective agenda to run the NHL out of this town.

Aside from the lack of objectivity, the anti-THRASHERS coverage is why I stopped subscribing to this nonsense.

GO, THRASHERS!!

Kill Yourself, Bradley.

stephen minsk

May 14th, 2009
5:38 pm

The Thrashers have helped develop and grow youth ice hockey in this area. It would be a shame to lose that connection. If Atlanta loses the Thrashers we will never have an NHL franchise again. It’s not that there’s not enough fan support. It’s ownership incompetence. When the team plays better more people show up-that is what happened toward the end of this season. When the tewam made the playoffs the fan support was definately there.

To those who don’t like hockey and have never been to a game: Once you see the game live and in person you’d be hooked. It is a fabulous sport!

Lisa

May 14th, 2009
5:47 pm

If the Thrashers don’t knock it off with the RIDICULOUS 7pm start times during the week, I hope the franchise goes under and every member of the ownership group and front office catch a disease from Michael Vick.

Otherwise, I love everything about the team. Actually, my sports and entertainment life would be unacceptably empty without Thrash and the boys.

Hughes

May 14th, 2009
5:51 pm

The Thrashers are not going anywhere! There deal for the Philips Arena naming rights was based on the fact that the Thrashers were one of the major tennants. In addition, the NHL won’t let this team move as it has been sucessful here attendance wise. They spent alot of time trying to build up the southeast division and want to expand their game. They just had an Allstar game here. This grumbling is just coming purists who don’t want to see the NHL in the South and folks with money to burn. Isn’t it obvious that they are attacking Southern NHL teams and relocated franchises that used to have Canadian ties. There’s nothing to any of this.

Wadell needs to put a winner on the ice this year for the sake of the ASG’s balance sheet, but I have been very impressed with John Anderson as a coach. They will be much improved next season.

D.Henderson

May 14th, 2009
5:52 pm

I was born in Alabama, raised in Georgia (so I’m definately NOT some ‘yankee’ transplant), and if the Thrashers left town, I’d be totally depressed.

Yeah, our GM shoulda been ran off 4 years ago. Yeah, our ‘owners’ are a bunch of trust fund bafoons. Yeah, the Canadian press hates us….but so what? Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor???

The Thrashers are ‘our’ team, and I love ‘em. The day they hoist the Cup downtown will be a great day, indeed.

Mark Bradley

May 14th, 2009
5:57 pm

I’ve tried to thank all those who responded via Twitter and e-mail personally, but in case I missed you: Thanks so much. I never dreamed I’d get such a response. Speaks well for the Thrash, IMHO.

johnny reb

May 14th, 2009
5:57 pm

Waddell & Thrasher Ownership are a joke.

Baracked the vote!

May 14th, 2009
6:07 pm

hmmmmmm…maybe the Flames could move back to GA. i thought the NHL was still on strike.

Shamus Thacker

May 14th, 2009
6:09 pm

I for one, could care less. Being a thoroughbred hillbilly/redneck, the only place I wanna see ice is my cooler. To err on the side of honesty, I must admit that I do watch Ice Road Truckers, but I think that’s now a universal requirement for rednecks. Have to check my guide….

Biff Pocoroba

May 14th, 2009
6:14 pm

I’d rather see the Gladiators play. It’s cheaper and the team actually makes the playoffs every year. Although it isn’t hard when 4 teams in a 5 league conference make it.

Joe Schmoe

May 14th, 2009
6:17 pm

We have a hockey team? Who’da thunk it!

Mark Bradley

May 14th, 2009
6:26 pm

Yeah, but Sidney Crosby doesn’t play road games in Gwinnett. Big difference.

The great regret of my life — well, one of many — was that I never saw Bobby Orr play in person. (I did, however, see Damian Rhodes.)

John

May 14th, 2009
6:33 pm

To Puck Drop Soup,
amazing how a story about the local Hockey team turns into a rant about our current President. Let it go, he won and your guy lost. If the team does leave will it somehow be Mr. Obama’s fault? Much like everthing else is the fault of the guy who has been in office for 4 months vs the guy who was in office for 8 years.

Joe Schmoe

May 14th, 2009
6:39 pm

To John,
It is amazing how one lectures the other of going political on a sports blog, but then does the exact same thing. You two are funny!

John

May 14th, 2009
6:43 pm

To Joe Schmoe,

Sorry, you are correct. I got carried away.

I do hope we don’t lose the team as attending a hockey game is one of the more interesting live sports event.

Jimmy Carter

May 14th, 2009
6:47 pm

The Thrashers are loved by the hockey fans of Atlanta. The Thrasher fans probably feel like they’ve been held HOSTAGE longer than Americans were in Iran. Let my people go!! Sell this team to someone who will care for it.

Mark Bradley

May 14th, 2009
6:52 pm

Speaking of Presidents … Jimmy Carter weighs in!

wxwax

May 14th, 2009
7:02 pm

I moved here from St. Louis 10 years ago. In St. Louis I was a moderately intense Blues fan. The team was playing well, it had championship aspirations and it had Chris Pronger. Going to a game was exhilarating.

I bought season tickets to the Thrashers my first year here. It was their first season. They may have lost every game I attended, can’t remember. But I realized that it was going to be a long, painful haul before they were competitive and I dumped the season tix.

I had no idea how long and how painful the haul would be.

With the current management, it’s hard to be enthusiastic about the Thrashers or sorrowful if they were to depart. There really doesn’t seem to be any hope on the horizon. Ownership has bought deeply into mediocrity or worse. I don’t see how it will ever get better with the current incompetent GM or underfunded owners. If Canadians can do better by this franchise by moving it to a land where it’s the national sport, then perhaps that’s for the best.

But it would be a pity if Atlanta never experienced the rush of a competitive ice hockey team, a team challenging for titles and playing with a teamwork and a spirit that makes the heart soar.

Is that a sport, A?

May 14th, 2009
7:11 pm

Hockey Smockey…when does little league baseball start?

Najeh Davenpoop

May 14th, 2009
7:24 pm

I don’t care about hockey at all, but I’ve been to one Thrashers game and it seemed interesting (although maybe it was just because I had great seats). But considering how easy it seems to be for the national media to dump on the ATL as a sports city, it would be even easier if we no longer had all four major team sports here. So for that reason alone, I’d probably rather see them stay.

Although if that means the DASG has to cut down on Hawks spending to keep the Thrashers afloat, forget it.

Ted Striker, channeling Ronald Reagan

May 14th, 2009
7:28 pm

The Cold War may appear over, but it isn’t realllllly over till we drink vodka in ATL from the Stanley Cup.

(Or something like that).

Eileen

May 14th, 2009
7:40 pm

I would be devastated if the Thrashers left town. It would help if the AJC would support them more. Hockey is the BEST spectator sport. We need ownership that cares!

Dunwoody_Joe

May 14th, 2009
7:41 pm

Hockey is a great sport and there are cities around North America that covet what we have in the Thrashers. The Spirit Group clearly know nothing about running a franchise but we should never allow their incompetancy to kill our team.

I can guarantee that if the Thrashers get some real leadership and start winning some (see Blackhawks) hockey will be king in Atlanta!

beretverde

May 14th, 2009
7:42 pm

I was in DC during the Caps Inaugural Season… a complete disaster. They had a black skater who couldn’t skate (affirmative action in action or is it “inaction”). I have been here since the beginning of the Thrashers (yes and Ted got them here and made sure they would be downtown near MARTA). Now that Ted is gone and they have struggled… keep the faith… Wadell has made mistakes but there is light at the end of the tunnel! To hell with the “non-owners”.. we have a program now in place… three years too late. As for the “Knight Fans” during the National Anthem… get real… less than 2% ever went to their games (they need to beat their boots due to my original Knight’s jersey). Get gone Knights along with the Flames… hopefully we’ll have our Thrashers here and get back into the playoffs! On another more important money making note… who is going to win the Preakness?

Chris

May 14th, 2009
7:43 pm

4 years ago, I didn’t care about hockey. This year, I’m getting season tickets. All this press about moving the team is just people trying to move the meter, as well as people who live in Canada who have nothing better to do with their time. For anybody who wants to read an honest assessment of the Thrashers’ off-season situation, check out Scott Cullen’s off-season game plan for the Thrashers on TSN.com.

cbgb

May 14th, 2009
7:43 pm

why is bradley relevant? Married to the prez? You’re paper is less than toilet paper.

Keith

May 14th, 2009
7:49 pm

Hell yes I would care! Hockey is the best. Playoff hockey is even better as witnessed by the games going on right now. If the AJC would give the Thrashers some positive coverage, it would help. More importantly, the owners have run off so many star players. They are the pits. With the young group we have now, we could actually build a successful team. Atlanta would love to support the Thrashers. We are just sick of the same crap year after year from this ownership group.

Tom Davis

May 14th, 2009
7:54 pm

BELIEVE IN BLUELAND

DW is on year 10 of a 15 year plan if I remember correctly. DW seems like a nice guy but that doesn’t win Lord Stanley’s Cup.

World Be Free

May 14th, 2009
8:01 pm

Can we get rid of Mark Bradley first?

No game is greater in person than hockey. It is fast, furious and just alotta fun.

Horsetoothedjackass

May 14th, 2009
8:11 pm

I would be angry if they left. While I don’t attend as many games as I did in the past, I still am a die-hard fan of the team. When Atlanta Spirit bought the team, I really did have higher expectations than when the team was owned by Time-Warner. While early on, they did show that they were willing to put together a team that could contend, unfortunately, they kept the weakest link, Don Waddell as GM. Just because someone was a semi-successful minor league GM who happened to spend a season with the Red Wings as an assistant GM when they won the Stanley Cup does not mean they’re an NHL caliber GM. Too many bad trades and draft picks for him to justify keeping his job.

Once this lawsuit gets settled (For some reason, I’m almost hoping Belkin buys everyone else out, as he couldn’t do much worse than what the others have done in the interim.), the future of this team will be clearer. If the team is sold, it will definitely be to someone local who wishes for the success of the team. I could see the Dickeys or Ron Terwilliger making a bid for the Thrashers, seeing as both the Dickey family and Terwilliger made bids for the Braves (as did Arthur Blank) before Time-Warner made the deal with Liberty Media. One could potentially include Arthur Blank as a potential owner as well, but I would think he would be a lesser possibility over the Dickey family or Ron Terwilliger.

DNA

May 14th, 2009
8:13 pm

Being a Red Wings fan I’m use to watching really good hockey. I’ve been a fan of the Thrashers since their first season. This franchise puzzles me, first that Waddel has ties to Detroit and you would never know it the way he runs this team and secondly, how many really good players have come and gone on this team. It is so obvious that the Spirit has no interest in this team. It is hard to be a Thrashers fan and not be frusterated.

kracker

May 14th, 2009
8:15 pm

Mark,

Thank you for checking in with the hockey fans here in Atlanta. I hope you are one as well to some degree and beyond your duties at the paper. I’ve read your columns since you came to the AJC, mostly about the other sports.

Like my short email reply said, I’d be devastated if the Thrashers move and I don’t know what I’d do then. They are my favorite team and sport these days. Well, along with the area football teams. I was here at the end of the Flames years in Atlanta but the sport didn’t capture me the way it does today.

We are in the midst of the long summer were a few dates are anticipated. The playoffs are onging and the entry draft lottery is now behind us. The draft itself is about six weeks away where draft day deals can happen and young talent is chosen. Last year was great in picking Bogosian…but then the team certainly did earn the right to select Zach with the bottom finish. They’ve earned another top selection in this draft. Soon after the draft is July 1st when the free agent signing period begins. Also this is when team mgmt. can attempt to negotiate an extension for Kovalchuk, which is another big thing happening this summer, hehe.

Maybe the %$#&*@ lawsuit will end soon and a replacement for Belkin and his withheld funding will be found. That’s another big thing to get past. On the ice, the team has some young talent maturing and perhaps they are are finally recovering from the setbacks caused by the Snyder/Heatley tragedy.

Anyway, don’t be a stranger, eh, Mark? Throw some cyber ink our way…Schultz and Waddell seem to dislike each other too much to actually discuss the team in a straightforward way, so learn more about the sport, I’m sure you will like it.

Hockey Biltong

May 14th, 2009
8:23 pm

What kills me is the lack of reporting by the tv sports dep’ts. I have surfed all the stations since playoffs started,and they are awesome!!! But nary a peep from our poodle primping talk jocks. Just cause the Thrashers bowed out at the end of the season, is no excuse to not report on the playoffs!!!!Football and baseball and basketball are not ignored…..even when there is no post-season appearance from our Atlanta teams.

Why is it that you can’t get two sentences about these incredible games. Wouldn’t it be mutually beneficial for the sports reporting to include a smidgen of Hockey News. That they don’t, totally pisses me off. I’d like to see those talking heads put their mic flags where the sun don’t shine……..

Mark Bradley

May 14th, 2009
8:29 pm

For the record, I like hockey very much. Have since 1968, when I first picked up Bruins games on WBZ and the Blues on KMOX via the ol’ transistor radio. Ask me about Red Berenson. Or Derek Sanderson. Or Johnny (Pie) McKenzie. Ask me about the Bruins losing Game 6 to Montreal in ‘69 in double OT. (Beliveau beat Cheevers!) Ask me if I once got a hockey stick for Christmas, even though I still have never been on ice skates in my life.

Preds Fan N Atl

May 14th, 2009
8:29 pm

Nashville went thru this “relocation” thing last year and it will continue to happen each season. Atlanta and the other southern NHL towns are all under attack. As for for Puck Drop Soup, I for one am enjoying watching the flesh fest tearing the GOP apart.

BA

May 14th, 2009
8:30 pm

I’m a native Pittsburgher (Go Pens), and I do like the Thrashers as my #2 team, but in reality I have only been to games where they are playing Pittsburgh. And for those games, it seems that about half the people in attendance are for Pittsburgh. I assume that it applies to other teams just as well. I would bet dollars to donuts that attendance is dictated to some extent my the visitng team’s fanbase in Metro Atlanta.

That being said, I hope they stay (so I can see the Pens, but also so Atlanta get’s to enjoy a great sport); however, it’s about business. If they can make more money in Hamilton, the owners need to go where they can maximise their return on investment.

Also, I should point out that Hockey has become a much more competitive sport since the salary cap was instituted. It gives small markets (like Pittsburgh) the oppertunity to compete, it also helps large markets (like Atlanta) that don’t have the great TV rights and merchandizing like the Maple Leafs. Perhaps in a few more years, the Thrashers will become more successful thanks to the salary cap…but even that is problematic, fair-weather fans won’t build a team. Atlanta needs to build a real fanbase…

Hijacker

May 14th, 2009
8:34 pm

I doubt that Waddell stays GM for in a market with increased fan and media exposure, hence I support a move to a more traditional market.

R. Stroz

May 14th, 2009
8:42 pm

We care about hockey but I sincerely question whether ownership does.

The Thrashers payroll has consistently been near the bottom of the league. The GM, Don Waddell, is the laughing stock of the league.

That said, for years the Hawks payroll(pre-Bibby) was near the bottom of the NBA and attendance was dismal. Once again, a bad GM, Billy Knightmare, and cheap owners were to blame.

I would love to see both franchises, the Thrashers and the Hawks, freed from the clutches of the ASG.

For years, both franchises had the dumbest GMs in their respective leagues.

GaDawgFan

May 14th, 2009
8:42 pm

I wish the hockey team would move, so maybe the owners can spend more money and get a good BB team. The hawks will always be mediocre, and these idiot owners keep spending money on mediocre players and bad draft picks. In fact, I wish these morons would sell the team to someone who knows something about basketball.

gabugman

May 14th, 2009
8:45 pm

The Thrashers are still here? That’s funny, they left town for me 8 years ago. Being a “lifer” hockey fan I bought into all the hoopla and BS of the inaugural season and purchased season tix. Had em for the 1st two years actually. Then came all the BS promises from DW that were never fullfilled; the season ticket holder meetings with the “plan” outlined and the reasons for bizarre trades explained. “Rest assured” we were told, “this is the direction we need to take to make this franchise a contender”. Eight years later the Atlanta Thrashers are a laughing stock of professional sports both at the league level and the (inter)national reporting level. Small wonder the upper echelon of NHL players won’t come to ATL. And why Hoss and Heats left (you thought it was the accident? Idiot). That’s why Kovy will be gone next year. ATL won’t field a respectable team until management are FORCED to hire a competent GM and fork over some $ for quality skaters. And that won’t happen until all you die hards quit patronizing these clowns. Tough break for the players? You bet. But would you want to play for the Lions either? As far as I’m concerned this team is already gone. And I call BS on you Don Waddell.

ea

May 14th, 2009
8:45 pm

Hijacker, Atlanta is not a traditional southern city. We are full of northern transplants who are die hard hockey fans. We also have many southern fans. Our great city not only deserves, but needs a hockey team. The media exposure that barely exists would help in putting pressure on Waddell, but more importanly, the ownership.

Brian D Smith

May 14th, 2009
8:45 pm

Absolutely, I’d be blue. I love the Thrashers more than any other professional team in any sport. Not only would the city of Atlanta miss the team, though, they would miss the ancillary benefits of having an NHL team in the town. The Thrashers Hockey Development Team does an outstanding job exposing kids in the area to the sport. My son is fortunate enough to have two members of this group as his current mites coaches. These guys are second to none.

Hijacker

May 14th, 2009
8:57 pm

ea, how about you northern transplants go back home and kidnap plenty of good hockey journalists? I’d love to see them grill the Spirit and Waddell on a regular basis.

Tater Tots

May 14th, 2009
9:00 pm

If the AJC left town, would anyone notice?

Would anyone care if they did notice the AJC died (aside from Sunday coupons no longer arriving)?

Georgia Hockey Fans deserve better coverage than this newspaper will ever deliver.

Burn in Hell, AJC!

David Wood

May 14th, 2009
9:02 pm

As long as we don’t lose the Gladiators along with them, I don’t care what happens to the Thrashers. Fun hockey, inexpensive tickets and concessions, easy access from I-85, free parking- perfect for the family.

World Be Free

May 14th, 2009
9:08 pm

Great call Tater!
At least Terrance Moore is writing about hockey anymore!

BeachGaBulldog

May 14th, 2009
9:11 pm

I grew up with the old Atlanta Flames and was a diehard fan. It made me sick when they moved to Calgary. As for the Thrashers, I just never got into this team. I moved to another NHL city, so at least I get to see playoff hockey every year. I would love to see the Thrashers fold. They are a joke!

World Be Free

May 14th, 2009
9:12 pm

Hey Mark-we need real hockey coverage in this town. The AJC plunks hockey on the back pages, aside from this stupid article on whether we would miss hockey or not.

The AJC has done JACK for this team over the years.

Brian Rudisel

May 14th, 2009
9:13 pm

Thanks, Mark, for this. It’s great to see the support for hockey in Atlanta, even in a small sample, is pretty overwhelming.