Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Atlanta to Winnipeg

Just some points to make based on listening to the hockey experts and fans calling in for the last couple of hours on NHL Home Ice on my XM radio.
  • The Thrashers fans are saying they supported the team as well as could be expected given the fact they never had a winner to support.
  • I'm sure ownership was disappointed with declining season ticket sales.  The Thrasher season ticket holders are saying, "Why buy season tickets when you could get the seat next to yours for half price whenever you wanted to go to a game."
  • The Thrashers fans point out that ownership didn't keep their best players -- Kovalchuk, Heatley, Marc Savard, et al -- nor obviously spent the money for good supporting players.
  • The Thrashers never won a playoff game in their existence.
  • The Thrashers were owned by the same owners of the Atlanta Hawks, who Thrasher fans contend was the team the owners really cared about.
Given the above points and others I may be missing or forgetting, it is easy to be sympathetic toward Thrashers fans.  I'd also make this point in their support:  Consistently competitive teams bring fans to games, no matter where.  Could we be talking about the Sharks moving from San Jose if they haven't had good ownership and player personnel people keeping that team competitive?  Probably.  Look at the city of Toronto as another comparison.  Toronto is an enormous city with great sports fans.  The Blue Jays were the first franchise to hit four million fans in a season, this in a stadium that holds just over 50,000.  Now after 15 years of mediocrity, the Blue Jays draw about 20,000 a game.

So their points are well taken and we'll never know how good a hockey town Atlanta could have been but this very large point also needs to be considered:  They have had 20 years of excellent, competitive and championship baseball in Atlanta but I don't think it's unfair to say the region is still fairly apathetic toward the Braves.

On a side note:  It was mentioned that Winnipeg getting an NHL team is great for the fans of that area as well as fans of other small Canadian NHL markets.  Why?  The point was made that if a team had gone to Hamilton, apparently a high revenue market, it could serve to drive up player salaries and put the Winnipegs of the NHL in profit peril all over again.  I just found that interesting.

PS:  This move makes my ticket stub from seeing the Thrashers play the Bruins in 2007 a lot cooler.


Brent said...

I think that the Thrashers had a chance to be a perennial playoff team, but the Heatley accident that killed Dan Snyder and caused Heatley to be out of action for some time and finally traded made the Franchise take major steps back.

After that took place, the Front Office of the Thrashers took too much care in trying to find character players instead of possibly overlooking a lack of judgement a player had in their past.

The attendance showed that Atlanta is not a hockey town. Yes, they have only made the playoffs once in that time. However, you are in a non-traditional market that does not support their winning teams, let alone teams that don't have the foundation of winning. And the conditions that were made in Atlanta by the organization and the players made sure that hockey couldn't flourish there.

This is the second time that hockey didn't survive in Atlanta on the NHL level. And I think that the NHL does need to take a look at why that happened. And it isn't just the ownership and the fans. It is the NHL itself that has problems. But locking a team into a city when it continuously loses money and nobody from that city steps up to buy the team from the ownership that isn't the greatest should not happen. Otherwise we get another Phoenix situation which is complete BS.

Welcome back to the league Winnipeg, let's hope you don't screw it up again.

Brent said...

The Drive to 13 being held in Winnipeg crossed the goal today. About 6,000 season tickets were scooped up by the general public in 17 minutes. And that 17 minutes is misleading because Ticketmaster's web site was bogged down because of the rush.

Now I wonder what the name is going to be.