The pain and heartache that Thrashers fans feel won’t go away any time soon, nor should it. To take the team and toss it in the bin is unfair. That was our team, and it was upsetting to watch this market get drug through the mud by Canadian news outlets as a poor one for hockey without consideration for the ownership situation. There are more reasons that the Thrashers failed here in Atlanta than just attendance, and most of them can be traced back to the offices on Marietta Street.
Sure, I hated it when some Canadians said that Atlanta didn’t deserve a team because of it’s geographical location. I’ve mentioned it before that I think being jingoistic about a sport is idiotic, especially when it’s a sport that you love so much. Spread it! Let other fan bases experience it. Stop pretending that the Sunbelt is Canada’s version of Pokemon. You really don’t have to catch them all.
I choose you, Phoenix!
There’s no room for elitism in this sport - just enjoy it, and let other people enjoy it. The team grubbing isn’t doing Canadians in general much good around some parts of the league’s fans, and it’s unfortunate because I know for a fact that they don’t make up the majority of Canadian hockey fans. Team grubbers are just loud. Squeaky wheel, and all of that. People who actively root for a market to fail and for teams to relocate bother me, and they bother a majority of hockey fans - American and Canadian. But you can’t associate team grubbers with an entire nation, and you can’t associate Canadians wanting a team back with them stealing one.
It’s a sentiment among some Thrashers fans (again, some, not all) that Winnipeg/Canada/Nunavut/The Kids In The Hall/Whoever stole our team! THEY TOOK OUR TEAM!
No. Our team unfortunately relocated there. Did TNSE look at weaker markets when planning to relocate a team? Duh. If the Thrashers had’ve been sold to a local buyer, they could have moved on to another city, or just waited a while for Phoenix. Does that make them evil? Not really - it makes them a business who, by all accounts, have played the game correctly. They didn’t look at Atlanta and go “oh, let’s upset a group of people and steal their team because hockey’s Canada’s sport!” They looked at it as a business deal - and in business, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
The NHL and Atlanta Spirit, LLC, however... that’s where you can plunk your blame. Not Winnipeg, not Canada, not TNSE. Look in our own backyards. Look at an ownership group who wanted to sell the team from the second they bought it. Look at the group who went bare bones in every way that they possibly could, from on-ice players to off-ice personnel (for example, keeping Waddell as head coach because they were too cheap to pay Bob Hartley and a new one). They made ignorant decisions and forced the hockey ops to also make ignorant decisions. They considered a billboard on 75 South and radio ads on the station that broadcast the team anyway to be advertisement. Hell, they hired an advertising firm that based a whole season’s graphics AROUND CARDBOARD.
After the failed Derilique graphic set, the Philips Arena Hockey For Ants Foundation was ASG's next step.
Mix that in with a league who all but promised the team to TNSE, and a commissioner who honestly probably didn’t realize he ok’d a team in Atlanta let alone cared about it, and you have a perfect storm for relocation. Would it have happened without TNSE? Probably so, but not as fast. If something can happen just as well without one of the parties involved participating, then chances are good it’s not that parties’ fault.
The second part of my finger shaking admonishment goes to those who actually want teams to relocate to Atlanta at some point. My God, really? Look at what we just went through - the heartache of losing a team is not something I’d ever, ever want to wish on anyone. Sure, when the Jets moved to Phoenix in 1996 my first reaction was “What? How is that supposed to work?” Heck, when they put a team in San Jose, that was my reaction, and I was 10. I had similar reactions to the Lightning, Panthers, and Ducks, but those teams have all thrived there to some degree or another. They all have fanbases, and they all have people who would be crushed if their team moved. Yes, the Panthers and Coyotes aren’t exactly the tops of the attendance draws - and have been having those issues for some time - but you can’t make an argument about why the Thrashers should have been given a chance without making that exact same one regarding those teams. To say that you don’t think that they belong in the league, or that you want them to relocate, or that you wished Phoenix’d relocated instead of us... or that you want them to relocate to Atlanta? Is that not just as bad as those in Winnipeg who wanted to the same thing of the Thrashers?
We all have ways of coping that are different. Some folks are in the anger stage, and I get that. I’m still angry and upset at ASG and the NHL for allowing this situation to happen. I probably always will be. But misplaced anger never did anyone a bit of good, nor did actively wanting others to fail. No one wants to be around that guy who goes around, laughing at other teams’ misfortunes. For heaven’s sake, Atlanta fans, don’t be that guy.