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Atlanta Thrashers Fan Club looks at preserving Thrashers legacy, memories

Former Atlanta Flames goalie Dan Bouchard and Atlanta Thrashers Fan Club President Lisa Lewis present forward Jim Slater with the Most Improved Player Award after the '09-'10 season.
Former Atlanta Flames goalie Dan Bouchard and Atlanta Thrashers Fan Club President Lisa Lewis present forward Jim Slater with the Most Improved Player Award after the '09-'10 season.
(Atlanta Thrashers Fan Club)

With less than seven scant days left in the “official” history of the Atlanta Thrashers, fans of Atlanta’s almost-certain-to-be-moved hockey franchise are continuing on the journey of saying their goodbyes to a team that has brought them joy and pain over the past 11 NHL campaigns.

While it’s very easy (and equally appropriate) to blame a combination of $60 million, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and dastardly Thrashers co-owners Bruce Levenson and Michael Gearon, Jr. for the hockey team’s all-too-premature exit, the Official Atlanta Thrashers Fan Club is taking a different tact on the fan club’s official website.

Thrashers fans are encouraged to sign the “Hail Mary” petition to an unlikely-caring NHL Board of Governors to keep Atlanta’s hockey team in the eighth largest television market in the United States.

Those who wish to say goodbye to the players – who along with the fans are the true pawns in a brinksmanship contest between multi-millionaires and billionaires – can do so by clicking on a link and saying goodbye. Perhaps share your favorite Thrashers memory or tell a story about your favorite player.

Some that want to walk down memory lane, Atlanta Thrashers Fan Club President Lisa Lewis has put together a photo scrapbook of the awards given out by the fan club over the first two full seasons of the club’s operation.

For those not involved in the day-to-day operations of the club, the official Atlanta Thrashers Fan Club – the largest independently run fan club in the NHL with just under 900 members – gave out monthly awards over the past two seasons to the player they felt was the most outstanding at the end of each month and voted on a pair of end of the year awards: the Thrashers Player of the Year and Most Improved Player.

The process went like this: fans would nominate their player of choice each month and at the end of the year. The player had the most nominations at the end of voting would win the award. A fan who voted for the monthly awards would be selected at random to present the award to the winning Thrashers player. The award would usually be handed out in a pre-or-post-game presentation in the tunnel by the Thrashers locker room or in an auxiliary locker room used by visiting NBA coaching staff, which also doubled as the Atlanta head coach’s interview room.

Ironically, in the first two full seasons no Thrashers player had won the fan’s Player of the Month Award more than once.

Johan Hedberg was presented with the ’09-10 Player of the Year honors, while the final Atlanta captain, Andrew Ladd, was given the nod in what will almost certainly be Atlanta’s final season.

The final award – for Most Improved Player – is probably the most unique award that was given out to an Atlanta hockey player. Presented in conjunction with the Atlanta chapter of the NHL’s Alumni Association, it is the only trophy that synergized Thrashers history with that of the Atlanta Flames. (Why that is the case is another sad story for another day).

The recipient of the Most Improved Player Award received a large trophy with the names of both Thrashers and Flames players inscribed at the base. Think of it as the closest an Atlanta player has come to having his name inscribed on Lord’s Stanley Cup.

Jim Slater was the first Thrashers player to receive the award in ’09-’10, while Chris Thorburn was the last guy to receive the trophy this past season.

While a big money business deal will almost-certainly ship the Thrashers out of town next week, one thing that not even alleged NHL or Atlanta Spirit greed will be able to take away are the memories.

Thrashers fans, take a minute, look and revel in the history of your not-so-great-on-the-ice franchise that brought you all that joy over the years and remember. Remember folks, not even Gary Bettman, Michael Gearon and Bruce Levenson’s split of their $110 million plus $60 million “relocation” or “breakup” fee payday can take those memories away from you.

The Atlanta Thrashers Fan Club official page can be found at http://www.atlantathrashersfans.org.

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