Icy topic: How much longer will the Thrashers be in Atlanta?

John Anderson and Slava Kozlov are both pictured here. (AJC photo by Jessica McGowan)

John Anderson and Slava Kozlov are both pictured here. (AJC photo by Jessica McGowan)

Perhaps you’re fascinated by this whole John Anderson/Slava Kozlov back and forth. Or perhaps you have no idea who John Anderson and Slava Kozlov are.

I submit that more Atlantans fall under the latter heading. I submit more folks around here have forgotten the Thrashers even exist.

(For the record: The Thrashers are the Atlanta entry in the National Hockey League. Hockey is played on ice. The players skate and carry implements known as hockey sticks, with which they attempt to move a small rubberized disk known as a puck.)

This  leads me to today’s question(s): Given that the Thrashers traded their franchise player a while back and just finished 28th in a 30-team league in attendance, how much longer do you think they’ll be in Atlanta? Will the Spirit, as has long been rumored, sell the team to somebody who’ll then move it to Canada? (See, Canadians like hockey.) Or will these owners bite the bullet and and keep financing a team that has been in operation since 1999 and still hasn’t won a playoff game?

I’ll go first. Just guessing, I’d give the Thrashers one more year in Atlanta. And with that I’ll hang up and listen to your responses. Assuming there are any.

231 comments Add your comment

aswingruber

April 13th, 2010
12:17 pm

First!.. and I’m reading this in Ecuador… sadly the Thrashers have a couple years max in the ATL. I think there are enough hockey fans in this town, myself included, for a NHL franchise to be successful here but we can’t expect the city to support a perennial loser.

UGA ALL THE WAY

April 13th, 2010
12:18 pm

UGA ALL THE WAY

April 13th, 2010
12:19 pm

Never!!!! Soon Mark, i will be first…. to me it seems the thrashers are just being forgotten about. All the other Atl based teams seem to be doing circles around the franchise and the thrashers just cant keep up

Alex Murphy

April 13th, 2010
12:19 pm

As long as Waddell is in charge they are doomed.

John K

April 13th, 2010
12:20 pm

Agree. There are enough fans in ATL to support the Thrashers. However, between the spirit and the joke that is Waddell, they aren’t putting out a product that will entice fans to put out the $$$ to watch.

Bryan G.

April 13th, 2010
12:21 pm

I would think they are going to get sold at some point. I don’t think even a successful hockey team would sell in Atlanta…much less the hot mess that is the current team.

tp

April 13th, 2010
12:23 pm

Gone baby, gone.

Wait, have they even arrived yet?

Mark Bradley

April 13th, 2010
12:26 pm

First, swingruber. Kudos. And our first “first” from Ecuador, I feel confident in proclaiming.

Chris

April 13th, 2010
12:37 pm

Solving the Hockey on TV problem:

Tennis serves go 110MPH, and we have no trouble seeing them. Hockey slapshots go the same speed, and you can’t follow them. Why: because a tennis ball is white/light green and a hockey puck is black.

Paint the boards and the floor under the ice black and switch to a white puck. Watch viewership and franchise values rise enormously.

lancedavis15

April 13th, 2010
12:38 pm

I wouldn’t be so sure that they would sell too many more tickets even if they were a playoff team. Look at the Hawks. One of the top teams in the NBA and still struggle in attendance.

BravesWillStinkAgain&IWillWatchEveryGame

April 13th, 2010
12:39 pm

they will never leave the atl….changes on the way is the inside scoop…

Mark Bradley

April 13th, 2010
12:39 pm

That’s true, lancedavis15.

drawtheline

April 13th, 2010
12:39 pm

They may as well leave now if Waddell remains GM for life. No top tier star wants to play here. I doubt they’d be 28th in attendance if all the freebies they give to season tix holders were subtracted.

atlsportsguy1980

April 13th, 2010
12:39 pm

Are you serious? No, I mean it, are you serious? Winning is what drives the crowds right? Hockey would succeed in Atlanta if it had ownership and a front office that was dedicated to trying to build a winner. Shoot, it would succeed in Birmingham if you had competent ownership. Every year attendance is an issue for the Braves, Falcons, Hawks, and Thrashers. Remember the playoff games for the Braves we couldn’t fill the seats for? How about the Hawks. Now, that the young players for the Hawks have finally matured and become veterans they are winning. Wow, go figure patience paid off. Do you remember the laughable attendances Phillips got for the Hawks before 2008? What made that change? Winning. How about the Falcons? Before Arthur Blank became the owner and Michael Vick was drafted do you remember the crowds? We were blacked out almost every week unless we were playing the Cowboys, 49ers, or Pittsburgh. The difference there was that no one was barking for the them to be moved. Are you seriously gonna sit here and say because of attendance the Thrashers should move? How about this…let’s get the Atlanta Spirit to sell off Phillips, the Hawks and the Thrashers. Get 1 owner (one, single, not many owners) who wants to build a winner and is dedicated to performing that task. Give it a real shot here in Atlanta and if attendance still sucks then move them, but until then if you have no interest in hockey just stay out of the conversation.

BravesWillStinkAgain&IWillWatchEveryGame

April 13th, 2010
12:39 pm

they will never leave the ATL, changes on the way in a big way.

Mark Bradley

April 13th, 2010
12:39 pm

I’ve heard that “change-on-the-way” rumor myself. Not sure I buy it.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

April 13th, 2010
12:39 pm

As a sports fan (not a hockey fan though), how has Waddell kept his job? On the job since,’99 and the team is still a mess. How does this happen, isn’t 11-12 seasons of less than mediocore Management enough to show that he just cant do the job? And what happened to the guy they brought in from Colorado? Why did they run him out of town?

Falcon Josh

April 13th, 2010
12:41 pm

The team was selling out all the time when they made the playoffs 3 years ago. The arena was rocking when the playoffs started but the Rangers quickly took care of us in 4 games. Put a winner out there and people will come.

Mark Bradley

April 13th, 2010
12:41 pm

I like to think of Don Waddell as the Greg Norton of general managers, Lowcountry Bulldawg.

BravesWillStinkAgain&IWillWatchEveryGame

April 13th, 2010
12:42 pm

they won’t leave the ATL.
changes on the way in a big way

dream a little dream

April 13th, 2010
12:43 pm

at least we still have the atlanta dream. or do we? i forgot…

Mark Bradley

April 13th, 2010
12:44 pm

The Thrashers averaged 16,400 per home game in 2006-2007. That was down almost 3,000 a game this season.

Charlie Dalton

April 13th, 2010
12:45 pm

As long as the Falcons are still here, I’m happy. I sure wish we still had the ol’ Atlanta Chiefs though. Being an Atlantan by birth and growing up in our generally warmer climate, it’s difficult to get energized about a sport played on ice.

robray701

April 13th, 2010
12:46 pm

I hope the “big changes” that are being hinted at include replacing the GM, and selling the team to a local interest who is dedicated to putting a winner on the ice.

Herschel Talker

April 13th, 2010
12:47 pm

MB:

Forget Greg Norton. He’s the Jo Jo Reyes of GMs.

HT

RazorCatchPrey

April 13th, 2010
12:49 pm

The Thrashers have to win to bring folks to the arena. They have a good young core around which to build now, and competent management can turn this team into a winner in a year or two. Now they just need to get that competent management. Check out the Atlanta Analyzed series on bluelandchronicle.blogspot.com for more on the subject of Atlanta as a market for hockey.

BravesWillStinkAgain

April 13th, 2010
12:49 pm

They won’t leave the ATL, but they really should get rid of ALL management.
I am a part season ticket holder since it started and not only are they incompetent
boobs but the customer service sucks too! Case in point: I wanted an extra ticket
to the last game, and wanted to sit with the extra person, 3 together. I had two tickets.
I was willing to move even to the upper deck to get the extra ticket and sit together
and give them back my lowers which they could resell. They said they can’t do
that sort of thing. So I instead bought my ticket from some other fan outside
and poached, sitting next to my other seats. So instead of selling me another ticket,
they got nothing and I still got my way, plus got all 3 people downstairs at my normal
location. They are idiots who don’t know how to run a franchise, and I am giving
up going unless the major changes pan out.

Barnacle Bill Bavasi

April 13th, 2010
12:50 pm

Don’t really follow hockey, but for those who do, I wish the Thrashers were more successful, so this would not be an issue.

By the way, I don’t know if this is the same photo you’ve used before. But the ladies in the background are muy caliente. Thanks.

Mark Bradley

April 13th, 2010
12:52 pm

Here’s my question: Who would buy the Thrashers and keep the team here?

Wally

April 13th, 2010
12:54 pm

Funny, Atlanta carried the Hawks, Falcons & Braves for how many years before they won anything, or even came close?

leland

April 13th, 2010
12:55 pm

Dear Mr. MB–it is an icy topic, and it leaves me cold.

Your pal, Leland

Mark Bradley

April 13th, 2010
12:56 pm

Thanks, leland.

D Hawks

April 13th, 2010
12:56 pm

@atlsportsguy1980 – please check the archives on the history of ATL franchises. Every one of them has had a “move the team” movement or threat by ownership at some point in their history. Trust me, I’ve been a season ticket holder at one point or another for all except the Thrashers.

If the Thrashers are to have any prospect for survival in Atlanta, they must change the GM and coach NOW. Waddell has had 11 seasons, and after the only successful one (the one playoff season), he fired the coach 6 games or so into the next season. This was obviously due to some major disagreement, but it just underscores his ineptitude as GM. If your franchise player won’t re-sign for $100 million (if it is really true that this offer was made), that speaks volumes for the direction that he feels this franchise is going. Fans were excited when hockey came back, but the product that we skate out every night is barely NHL caliber despite having some talented players. There is no hockey mentality in this town because there is no product to be excited about. Just listen to the talk shows and you’ll rarely if ever hear anyone call in to discuss hockey. I think the team is gone after next season unless they make drastic changes this off-season.

GT Falcon

April 13th, 2010
1:01 pm

Def need to make a change in the front office before moving. Its amazing that idiot still has a job. Actually blows my mind.

I remember going to games the year the Trashers went to the playoffs and the crowds were good. Winning = fan interest. Tickets are expensive and I’m only going to buy them when the games have meaning. I’m not going to waste my money on a poor product. That goes for anything I spend my money on. Not just sports tickets.

docsbro

April 13th, 2010
1:02 pm

The attendance issue is a convenient distraction from the reality of the team being a complete joke!! If there was a team worth watching they would sell the place out enough. Hockey fans are very loyal to hockey and will support the team. But as long as DW is in charge the fan base will continue to dwindle. By the way attendance was awful in Pittsburgh before Crosby, it was terrible in DC before Ovi, what is the common denominator? They put together succesful teams and the buildings are sold out. If you go back just a few years and the Thrashers where well ahead of NJ, CHI, and several other teams.

Maybe so

April 13th, 2010
1:02 pm

Let’s face it, Atlanta is not a Hockey town. More people in the Atlanta area would be more interested in enduring a root canal on a Friday night than fight the downtown traffic to see a Thrashers game. And that isn’t a knock on Hockey, it is just true that Atlanta isn’t a great market for Professional Hockey. The Atlanta Fan base isn’t that great, even for the sports that most people like. I think this will be the reaon that Thrashers get out of town soon. It is one thing to get southerners out to watch a GOOD hockey team. It’s even worke if their bad.

Jason

April 13th, 2010
1:02 pm

Mark, my question to you is: You know which one John Anderson is in that picture but do YOU know which one is Slava Koslov?

timthebrave

April 13th, 2010
1:03 pm

People will support it if you put a good product on the ice. I remember how Phillips was rocking to close to sell out crowds for the last month of the season and playoffs a couple of years ago. The momentum was completely destroyed when we got swept, traded our good players and started the season terribly. If you have a good team the seats will magically fill up.

MrHughes

April 13th, 2010
1:04 pm

The Thrashers are tied to the naming rights at Philips Arena. They are not going anywhere. Plus, the NHL has a vested interest in keeping the southeast division intact. There’s not a market for an NHL team out there that hasn’t failed already. Phoenix is proof that anything can be rebuilt.

DW is gone, but I think JA has done a good job. Winning is part of the equation. You have to put a product on the ice that inspires the populace. For example, the Heyward Braves of this year versus last years team. Or, Mike Vick with the Falcons versus the team that doesn’t sell out the Dome presently. It’s really a shame. The Thrashers played some great hockey down the stretch. I was more impressed with the fight in that team, than the score happy bunch that went to the playoffs a few seasons back.

Also, folks that talk about the weather are missing the point. There are sucessful NHL teams in warmer climates.

Iceman

April 13th, 2010
1:04 pm

The only “rumors” I’ve seen about the team moving are from the doofi who make such comments on AJC blogs. What the Thrashers need…

1. A real, one person owner who cares
2. A GM that can keep a team together

That happens, and the winning will happen. Winning brings crowds.

Example; the Blackhawks, despite being one of the oldest and most recognized teams in a great hockey city, suffered for years under the iron fist of Bill Wirtz, the worst owner in NHL history. They had years of horrible teams, attendance that was near death..people went and saw the AHL’s Wolves instead. Bill died, his son took over, brought in a good coaching staff and management, put together a good team, and now they’re one of the league’s top teams, with attendance last year that passed a million for the season. You cannot get tickets to their games.

Not saying ATL would have a million attend in a year, but just saying that when you do things right and win games, people will come.

Knockahoma

April 13th, 2010
1:06 pm

sorry born and raised in Georgia. Couldn’t care less about hockey. I would be happy if atlanta would focus on getting an MLS team here.

Iceman

April 13th, 2010
1:10 pm

docsbro makes another good point about Washington…VERY low attendance before Ovechkin got hot, and then the whole team got good…booming crowds are there now. Over the last 3 seasons they’ve had 150 sellouts.

Once again I say; get a good team together, and the people will show up.

Dawgs2010

April 13th, 2010
1:10 pm

Nobody wants to go into the Ghetto and deal with all of the homeless to watch a game. Perhaps if they moved the games to the Gwinnett Arena, attendance would improve.

Josh

April 13th, 2010
1:11 pm

Where was your blog when the Thrashers were contending for a playoff spot?

gwtvol85

April 13th, 2010
1:11 pm

I have not been to a Thrashers game. Having grown up in Marietta, however, I attended several Flames games and lament what happened to that franchise. The Flames were marketed well and made even the most unknowledgable hockey fan want to watch and learn about the game. The city embraced the players and vice versa, which is evident from the number of former players who still live in the area after the team left town. That said, the best team this area has had in the interim has been the Knights. When the Knights began play this town welcomed hockey back w/open arms and the team did well. Can the Atlanta area support hockey? To be honest I’m not sure anymore. But, as with a struggling Fortune 500 company or small business, until changes are made with regards to who is making decisions and long range planning I would say “no.”

atlsportsguy1980

April 13th, 2010
1:12 pm

@D Hawks, I too have been a season ticket holder for the Braves, Falcons and at one point the Thrashers. I have lived in Atlanta my whole life (born and raised). No one has ever called for any of the other major Atlanta teams to be seriously relocated. I agree with you totally about management with GM and Coach. We need to improve the whole entity that is the Thrashers organization. But I think it starts with ownership. The only reason they haven’t invested in the team is that they know that they have to hold onto the team until the lease ends with Philips arena and then they were going to sell them off any way. But if that’s truly the case the Atlanta Spirit should never have been granted ownership. I agree totally that it shows a lot that Ilya gave up $100 million to go somewhere else for less and have a chance at a championship. But I ask this…where was that $100 million in the off season when they needed to upgrade goalie, defense and overall depth on the team?

@Mark B, I think to find an owner to keep them here in Atlanta the NHL would have to find a CEO or some guy with loads of cash to invest somewhere in the US. Then the NHL would have to make a deal with that guy that he has to keep the team in Atlanta for at least 5 years and keep the average team salary around the top 15 of the league (try to build a winner) and invest into teams marketing. If we can’t draw crowds after that, then he can move the team where-ever. Is that out there? Probably not in this current economy.

JD

April 13th, 2010
1:15 pm

For all the idiots who don’t follow or care about hockey, why would you post a repy on this blog. I guess I answered my question. You are an idiot.

Dr. Warren

April 13th, 2010
1:15 pm

The photo Mark has chosen is actually a Rorschach test of sorts for hockey’s viability in Atlanta–be honest, folks, who actually noticed the hockey players first??

JD

April 13th, 2010
1:16 pm

The Thrashers have to do what Tampa did just after 3 years (not ten plus like here) to prove to the fans that they are heading a different direction – good, bad, or indifferent. Fire the GM and coach.

Barnacle Bill Bavasi

April 13th, 2010
1:18 pm

“No one has ever called for any of the other major Atlanta teams to be seriously relocated.”

Then, how did the Calgary Flames get there?