2008 NHL All-Star Game, Atlanta, Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Spirit, Atlanta Thrashers, Black Hell, Blue Lines, Bob McKenzie, Centennial Tower, CNN Center, Dan Kamal, Dany Heatley, Danzig, ESPN.com, Georgia Dome, Hangover 2, Hawks, Ilya Kovalchuck, Key Yemaya Walker, Patrik Stefan, Philips Arena, Tampa Bay Lightning, The Associated Press, Thrashers, True North, True North Sports and Entertainment, TSN Canada
When Philips Arena first opened, my good friend who left the Georgia Dome, and went on to work for Philips Arena would take me to see the new hockey team in Atlanta, and the first team since the Atlanta Flames had left the Omni. In 2003 the process began for the sale of the Hawks and Thrashers to Atlanta Spirit.
I was lucky enough to work for the Thrashers, skate (and skate again, and break my arm) on their ice. See them clinch their first ever playoffs (missed working Playoffs due to above 100 temperature). Work, attend our hosted 2008 NHL All-Star game in Atlanta at Philips Arena. Wear the Thrashers jersey. It does hurt that something we worked so hard on, now moves on to Winnepeg.
I will miss the Thrashers, and today is a sad day for Atlanta…
I will remember Dan Kamal’s Calls,
Seeing Thrash-Heart during my first years seeing the team,
My first Thrashers jersey (my first NHL jersey was the Tampa Bay Lightning, since we had no team, and that was the closest),
Listening to them on 680 the Fan, 790 the Zone, then 680 the Fan again, XM Radio,
From AP and ESPN.com News services.
True North Sports and Entertainment has completed its deal to purchase the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers, clearing the way to move them to Winnipeg.
True North announced the deal at a news conference Tuesday at MTS Centre in Winnipeg, the arena the team will call home next season, pending league approval.
This song sums up how I feel…if you’ve seen the movie, think of that scene…it helps.
The deal bringing the NHL back to Manitoba is worth $170 million, including a $60 million relocation fee that will be split by the rest of the league, a source told ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun.
“It’s nice to be back in Winnipeg after all these years,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who attended the news conference.
Thrashers co-owner Bruce Levenson said despite the time, effort and resources spent trying to keep the team in Atlanta, it wasn’t meant to be.
“This is not the outcome we wanted and it’s extremely disappointing that a buyer or significant investor did not come forward that would enable us to keep the team in Atlanta,” Levenson said.
Assuming the deal goes through — the sale is subject to approval by the league’s board of governors at a June 21 meeting in New York — Atlanta would become the first city in the NHL’s modern era to lose two teams. The Flames moved to Calgary in 1980 after eight seasons in Atlanta.
The Thrashers entered the league in 1999 as an expansion franchise, but ownership problems, a losing team and dwindling attendance doomed the club. The team ranked 28th out of 30 teams this year with an average attendance of less than 14,000.
The relocated franchise is holding a season ticket drive in advance of the board of governors meeting, hoping to make its case to the league that Winnipeg will support the team.
True North made the announcement one day before the start of the Stanley Cup finals, which begin Wednesday in Vancouver between the Canucks and the Boston Bruins. While there was no prohibition on announcing major news during that series, the league preferred to get the Thrashers’ sale off of its plate before opening its signature event.
Winnipeg has been without NHL hockey since the Jets, whose roots date back to the World Hockey Association, moved to Phoenix in 1996. While the Bobby Hull-led Jets were the class of the WHA, winning three titles in the league’s seven seasons, they could not equal that success after joining the NHL. Financial difficulties in the 1990s, in part due to a weak Canadian dollar, led to the team’s departure.
Wayne Gretzky, whose powerhouse Edmonton Oilers teams regularly sent the Jets home disappointed in the playoffs during the 1980s, said he thought Winnipeg could succeed in the post-lockout NHL.
“I think after 2005, with the new partnership between the union and the owners, where a salary cap was put into place and revenue sharing and most recently with the TV deal, I think it allows a place like Winnipeg to not just have a team but be competitive,” Gretzky told ESPN.com.
“But I really thought after that deal in 2005 that places like Winnipeg and Quebec City would be viable again to support an NHL franchise,” Gretzky added. “Because you know in Winnipeg they’ll draw 15,000 people a game and that wasn’t the case in Atlanta. Winnipeg can count on that.”
It remains to be seen whether the franchise will bring the Jets team name back into the league with Winnipeg’s return. True North chairman Mark Chipman said Tuesday the team name has yet to be determined, but that one will be forthcoming soon.
The NHL will not realign its divisions for the 2011-12 season, meaning Winnipeg will play in the Southeast, a league source confirmed to LeBrun.
Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, a Winnipeg native, wasn’t sure he’d ever see an NHL team return to his hometown.
“The last four to five years you heard whispers that a team might come. In all honesty, I never thought it would happen during my career,” Toews told ESPN.com. “But I guess the opportunity arose with a couple of teams in a situation where they might move. The stars aligned and hopefully everything goes well the next couple of years.”
For weeks, the two sides had been working through complex legal details on the sale and relocation of the team, while leaving open the possibility that a local buyer would emerge late in the process. No one ever came forward with a serious offer, according to the Thrashers’ ownership group, Atlanta Spirit, and the city’s mayor, Kasim Reed.
“It is going to hurt the city but we will withstand it just fine and we will get through it,” Reed said.
Bettman said the league didn’t want to leave Atlanta but had little choice.
“No real local purchasers emerged,” he said. “When the Atlanta ownership made it clear they wanted out, we reached outside the Atlanta market.”
Team president Don Waddell had said there remains some hope for a late development until a sale is made official and approved by the NHL board of governors.
But considering the Spirit, who also own the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and the operating rights to Philips Arena, has been trying for years to sell the hockey team, that seems highly unlikely.
Also, any potential owner would have to agree to become a tenant at Philips Arena, a major impediment because it would cut into potential revenue from sources such as concessions, parking, luxury suites and other events.
“We don’t like to move a franchise,” Bettman said. “We’re not happy about leaving Atlanta. This was never about whether Winnipeg is better than Atlanta. The decision to come to Winnipeg was only made after the Atlanta ownership made the decision they were going to sell even if it meant the team was going to leave Atlanta.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
The manuscript Blue Lines is the fictional coming of age narrative of a young California woman Key Yemaya Walker, and her 2 year growing journey through school, love, and life period piece, written by Kenneth Suffern, Jr., taking place at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill between the years of 1997 – 1998. Loosely based on true events, and experiences during that time, told through the eyes and voice of the main female protagonist, a freshman first attending the school.