|Phoenix Scores, Atlanta Loses!|
Will Atlanta lose its second NHL team? It appears to be more likely than ever now. It is being reported that the Atlanta Spirit Group have not been able to find a buyer to keep the Thrashers in Atlanta, so`they've initiated negotiations with True North, who is poised to buy the team and move them to Winnipeg. After Glendale, AZ city government decided last week to help subsidize the Phoenix Coyotes, the NHL-to-Winnipeg relocation saga turned to Atlanta, toward a very willing seller, ASG.
If the Thrashers are to leave, there is plenty of blame to go around.
First, the ASG has done a half-butt job of making the Thrashers a good product ever since they bought them from Time Warner. The last time I went to a game was three years ago. I went on a Friday night to watch them play the Senators, who were the #1 team in the East at the time. The arena was almost full, yet only half the concession stands were open. It took 20 minutes to get a burger and a Coke and it cost me $9 to get it. I've heard weeknight games were even worse. That's cheap and unacceptable for a major sports franchise, especially when you consider the high ticket prices people pay just to get in the door.
Second, former GM/current president Don Waddell made plenty of personnel blunders in constructing the team. No matter how many bad trades/draft picks "Teflon Don" made, he always had a job: ruining the franchise's future. The Dany Heatley situation was unfortunate and out of Waddell's control, but the mishandling of Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa's contract situations were detrimental to the progress of the franchise. And Patrik Stefan as the #1 overall pick? The only draft picks Waddell hit on were the ones that were no-brainers (Heatley, Kovalchuk, Pavelec).
Thirdly, I refuse to blame the fans! Atlanta sports fans get a bad rap, but people in the South aren't overly rich and don't want to spend their hard earned money on a crap product. I think Atlanta fans are smart fans, honestly. If an Outback steak costs $15 would you spend $15 on a steak from Waffle House? Didn't think so.
The Bottom Line: Garbage ownership and poor management have been the demise of the Thrashers, not the lack of fan support. The lack of support has come as a result of the poor management. ASG tried to put the blame on the fans for not showing up, but fans will only be suckers for a third-rate product for so long. Most likely, we will say goodbye to the Thrashers and I will be sad. Professional hockey can survive in Atlanta, but nothing will survive the incompetent, neglectful ASG ownership.