Here’s something that Atlanta Thrashers fans have thought for a while now – their ownership group is the worst in professional sports.
Now a national publication agrees.
“ESPN the Magazine” published their ninth annual franchise rankings on Wednesday and the soon-to-be-gone Atlanta Thrashers ownership – the Atlanta Spirit – ranked 122 out of the 122 possible MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL owners in the “ownership” component according to the publication.
The Spirit’s other entity – the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks also didn’t fare that well in the ownership category. The Hawks’ matrix for ownership – defined by the magazine as “honesty and loyalty to core players and local community” ranked 101st.
The Spirit’s Thrashers unit also ranked dead last in honesty and was second to last in loyalty to players and commitment to the community. Only the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, who were threatening to bolt to Anaheim earlier this season, finished worse in the commitment category. Just the Pittsburgh Pirates showed less loyalty to players. The Hawks unit finished 114 of 122 in the honesty component.
Atlanta’s hockey team, which is almost certainly bound for Winnipeg next week finished 115th overall in the rankings, which also measured "Bang for the Buck," "Fan Relations," "Affordability," "Stadium Experience," "Players," "Coaching" and "Title Track."
The Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers topped the list, followed by the resurgent Tampa Bay Lightning – a model franchise that showed exactly what good ownership can do to rescue hockey in a market – something Thrashers fans will not get a chance to experience thanks to the Spirit and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were baseball’s No. 1 team, finishing fourth in the survey, while the San Antonio Spurs were atop the NBA portion of the rankings, finishing No. 5 overall. The NFL’s New Orleans Saints finished No. 3 while the Oklahoma City Thunder, Pittsburgh Steelers, Colorado Rockies, Memphis Grizzlies and Pittsburgh Penguins occupied the No. 6 through 10 spot in the survey.
The highest-ranked ownership group was Little Caesar’s founder and Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch’s group. They placed 17th overall in the survey. The most honest ownership group was the Steelers, who have been owned by the Rooney family for generations.
Atlanta teams not owned by the Spirit fared well in the survey. The Liberty Media-owned Atlanta Braves finished 19th overall in the survey – with their ownership group finishing at No. 45. Arthur Blank’s Atlanta Falcons took the 20th overall spot. Blank was also named the 20th best owner in North American major professional sports. The Falcons took the No. 9 spot in the honesty component.
Anchored down by sub-par ownership metrics, the Hawks finished 101st overall in the survey.
The Thrashers were the second-worst NHL team. The only team to get a worse rating was the Toronto Maple Leafs, who finished 120th. The money-making Leafs a/k/a the Chicago Cubs of hockey have the highest ticket prices in the NHL despite not winning a Stanley Cup since 1967.
Bringing up the rear overall in the survey were the Toronto Raptors (116), New York Mets (117), Minnesota Timberwolves (118), Kings (119), Leafs (120), Washington Redskins (121) and Cincinnati Bengals (122).
The five worst ownership groups included the Los Angeles Clippers (118), Pirates (119), Bengals (120), Kings (121) and Thrashers (122).