The Atlanta Thrashers left town for good on Tuesday, and although the move was almost certain for many fans of the team, the Board of Governors vote signaled the final end of an all-too-sad saga.
The Thrashers were like your terminally ill family member that you know would ultimately pass on. And even though you knew the end was coming, tears were shed and memories were shared as a callous NHL gave into the petulant Atlanta Spirit’s demands and approved the move to Winnipeg.
When a family member passes on, while the person may no longer be here, the memories remain. Thrashers fans and those who made a run at the team will retain those memories, even if the bad taste of an ownership group that killed the team coupled with the NHL’s $60 million payday lingers in the back of their minds and dominated the post-relocation conversation.
“I became an Atlanta Thrashers fan on November 14th, 2009,” Maranda Morton of Jonesboro, Ga. said, reminiscing about a home game against the Carolina Hurricanes. “I still have that very first ticket hanging on my wall. I got the news about the Thrashers move being approved by the (Board of Governors). I was so appalled.
“I had a good 10 minute phone (with a friend) call recounting all our memories and how badly (NHL Commissioner Gary) Bettman and (the Atlanta Spirit) treated us over the years. We talked about how Bettman claimed to do everything in his power to keep the Thrashers in Atlanta, and called bs out on it.”
Morton was not the only one who pointed fingers at a seemingly uncaring NHL Commissioner and the Atlanta Spirit. Catherine Olson of Atlanta vowed to take things one step further against the Atlanta Spirit, who now own just the Atlanta Hawks and the operating rights to Philips Arena.
“It is a true sign of the times when money (60M dollars) speaks louder than honestly and integrity,” Olson said of the $60 million “relocation” or “breakup” fee paid by the Winnipeg franchise to NHL to allow the move. “I for one will make sure I never ever step foot in Phillips arena for any event as long as Spirit owns it.
“I have also made sure that I have no dealing with any of the companies these guys own. If a business I work with has dealing I will cut that business off too. I will do everything in my power legally to make sure these guys really don't make any money!”
Of course, one of the biggest beefs that Thrashers fans have is that there have been numerous reports that folks have at minimum kicked the tires at looking at buying the Thrashers or the Thrashers, Hawks and the operating rights to Philips Arena from the Spirit, but for whatever reason, no one has pulled the trigger on a deal to buy the team.
One group that took a look at purchasing the team was lead by Hollywood producer and Atlanta-native Stephen Rollins.
“It is with deep sadness to learn that the NHL Board of Governors unanimously approved the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers to the city of Winnipeg,” Rollins said. “Having recently been contacted by other groups who stated that they also had attempted to make a bid, I am heartbroken and distressed that further efforts were not considered nor made to secure the Thrashers organization in Atlanta.
“We at Lightning Pictures LLC made every effort, and in the end, never connected and fell short of our efforts. As an Atlanta native, I truly believe that Atlanta is a great hockey town, and as a Thrashers fan, I feel the team was never given the opportunity to succeed that the franchise deserved.”
Rollins, who was part of a group that actively sought to bring the Thrashers to Atlanta in the late-90s, hopes that the city will get a third shot at hosting a big league hockey team.
“It is my hope, my wish that the NHL will return to Atlanta in the near future,” Rollins said. “If so, and given the right components to flourish, I truly believe an NHL banner will once again hang from the rafters of Philips Arena.”
Hey, given the state of the NHL right now, with a lot of teams allegedly struggling at the gate and an unresolved situation in Phoenix, you never know. Stranger things have happened.