As Ilya Bryzgalov breathes a sigh of relief that he no longer has to purchase a scarf, parka, and snow tires, the Atlanta Thrashers are busy packing up and moving to Winnipeg.
It’s great that Winnipeg regains a franchise they never should have lost in the first place, but let’s not forget how tough it is in Atlanta right now for thousands of fans, and many individuals that are now out of a job.
Say what you want about the team but Thrash was the coolest mascot in the league by a mile. Anyone who hijacks a zamboni and takes it for a joyride down the highway is super fly.
For those that think the Thrashers failed because of the market they were in, you’re wrong. Hockey can succeed anywhere if given the right situation and a fighting chance. Case and point; the Hurricanes, Sharks, and Stars that have all had long-term success in non-traditional hockey markets. Not to mention, the ECHL’s Gwinnett Gladiators, who are located just outside of Atlanta, recently renewed their lease for the next three seasons and rank near the top of the league in attendance.
The truth of it is the team failed because of poor ownership and management which led to poor results on the ice. When you only make the playoffs once in 12 years and you get swept, you’re asking for trouble. It is unfathomable that a franchise who had players like Dany Heatley, Marian Hossa, and Ilya Kovalchuk could never manage to get one locked up long-term to build a competitive team.
Now that Winnipeg has a second chance, let’s hope they can overcome some challenges and make this a successful franchise. With NHL revenues being ticket driven, it’s important to remember even if the team sells out every game they will still only average about 1,500 more fans then the Thrashers did. Sponsorship and local support will be crucial this time around to maintaining longevity in the marketplace.
The salary cap was supposed to create an even playing field and prevent things like relocation from happening. We are starting to see glimpses of that but unfortunately it was just a little too late for Thrashers fans.
Despite public perception, there are many fans in Atlanta greatly disappointed with the loss of their team, and Winnipeg fans know that pain all too well.