Unlike the situation in Winnipeg when the Jets left in 1996, there was no lame duck season. Unlike when the Hartford Whalers bolted town for Carolina in the following years, there was not a lame duck period measured in months for Atlanta’s hockey team.
The only modern NHL relocation that was even equivalent to that of the Thrashers was when the Quebec Nordiques left for New York to play the New York Rangers in the playoffs, never to return again. They ended up in Colorado, instead. But even Nordiques fans had a pretty good inkling that their team may not return to town ever again.
The same cannot be said for Thrashers fans.
With a myopic National Hockey League that suddenly put profit over patience and valued naked capitalism over compassion, Thrashers fans were not exactly thrown a bone when the next year’s NHL schedule was released on Thursday.
There will be no exhibition game in Atlanta next year.
Those die hard Thrashers fans who want to watch their team play one last time live are going to have to make a pilgrimage to places like Charlotte, Nashville or Tampa Bay.
Atlanta’s former hockey team will still play in the Southeast Division next year. That means that the yet-to-be-named Winnipeg NHL team will play the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Carolina Hurricanes six times each next year, three each times on the road in St. Petersburg and Raleigh.
The former Thrashers also have a preseason game against the Hurricanes in Charlotte.
Winnipeg’s NHL team will also face off against the Nashville Predators in both the preseason and the regular season in the Music City.
Thrashers fans’ first opportunity to watch their old team close to home will be in a Saturday, September 24th exhibition game against the Preds at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. The next day, fans of Atlanta’s former hockey team can make the three hour trek to Charlotte to watch a 5:00 p.m. faceoff against the Hurricanes.
If Thrashers fans want to watch their former team in their first official Southeast Division road game, it is a six or seven hour drive to Tampa for a 7:00 p.m. tilt against the Lightning on Saturday, October 29. Otherwise, your next-best chance to watch your former team close to home is a game against the Predators in Nashville on Saturday, March 24.
The Atlanta Thrashers Fan Club is working on a farewell trip to see the guys one last time and will have details shortly, showing once again that while bad owners and an uncaring NHL Commissioner can take the team away from them, those same unscrupulous individuals cannot take away the memories.