Tuesday, May 31, 2011

RIP Atlanta Thrashers 1999-2011

I never really had pets in my life other than a fish or two. So it's hard for me to compare losing the Thrashers to losing a pet. But I really am feeling heartbroken today. At noon today, a group of assholes from Winnipeg are announcing that they're buying the Atlanta Thrashers from THE BIGGEST group of ASSHOLES (The Atlanta Spirit Group) and moving my team to Canada. This hurts. It hurts a lot. I moved to Atlanta in 2001 and fell in love with the Thrashers around 2003-ish. I've been to probably 85% of the home games since then. I've seen 0 playoff wins from my team. 0. That's not easy. 53% of the league makes the playoffs every season. 53%!!!! The Thrashers have done it once. The stats major in me tells me there is a 0.03% of that happening only once in 11 years (although i'll admit to being rusty). April 2007 was the loan playoff appearance, against my childhood team, the New York Rangers. The Thrashers lost all 4 games, but those two home playoff games were right up there with the 3 FSU National Championship Games I went to from Jan 1999-Jan 2001 as the best sporting events I've EVER been to. Now my team is being taken away from me. And it's not fair.

In 1996 the Winnipeg Jets left town to move to Phoenix and become the Coyotes. The Coyotes have made the playoffs the last two seasons and have had very good teams. Despite that, the Coyotes have had lower attendance numbers each season than the Thrashers. The Thrashers haven't exactly packed the house, but who wants to go watch a terrible team, year after year? The one season the Thrashers made the playoffs, games were sold out, fan interest was peaking. Since then, it's been downhill, thanks to the worst group of owners imaginable. They've been fighting amongst each other for the last few years in court. As soon as that was settled - Dec 2010, they set out to sell off the Thrashers. And they did so in just 5 months. NHL by-laws state that to relocate a franchise, options to sell the team to local buyers must be fully exhausted. Which is pretty impossible in only 5 months.

The NHL has been so against relocation that when the situation in Phoenix got so bad, the NHL itself took over control of the team when the owners went bankrupt. Here's a crazy thought, why don't you move those fuckers back to Winnipeg! It was their team to begin with! But, no such luck. The NHL Commish Douchebag, Gary Bettman hasn't said a peep about our Atlanta situation, after being so incredibly, oddly dedicated to keeping Phoenix put. He's just standing by letting Atlanta lose our team. It just doesn't make sense why the league wouldn't do anything to try and help us like they helped Phoenix. Atlanta was never given a chance to succeed. As soon as it was announced that the Coyotes were staying put for the 2011-12 season, within days, it was announced that the Thrashers were likely bolting for Canada instead. Now, at noon today, it will be done.

Even with all the losing, i have such great memories of my short life as a Thrashers fan. I've done 2 tv-timeout games - which were blogged here and here. Still haven't used my $50 Hard Rock gift card yet now that I think about it. I've had countless huge beers at the CNN Center, I've played dodgeball on the ice, I got my name on the scoreboard for my 30th birthday, I've had probably a hundred games worth of seats in my company's suite which is right next to the injured players' suite. I sat in both the last row and first row for the 2006 NHL All Star Game. About the only thing I never did was ride the zamboni. The Thrashers were by far, my favorite thing about the city of Atlanta. And they're being taken away from me. It's just not fair.

Now what for me? What did Hartford Whalers fans do when their team moved the Raleigh? Do you still root for them? I still love the players on the team, I can't see myself rooting against THEM. But the prospect of what the team can do when they actually have owners who care is something I'm excited about but won't get to enjoy.

And I've now officially switched from the depression phase to the anger phase after writing this, my first blog in about 14 months. Thanks.

The AJC's Jeff Schultz just posted a column that needs to be read: http://blogs.ajc.com/jeff-schultz-blog/2011/05/31/thrashers-atlanta-were-never-given-a-chance/