R.J. Umberger, Samuel Pahlsson

Add the Atlanta Thrashers to the list of teams facing attendance issues

A few days ago, Joe discussed the attendance issues plaguing the Columbus Blue Jackets and Phoenix Coyotes.

Sadly, the trend of fledgling teams struggling to draw people in relatively young markets continues with the Atlanta Thrashers, according to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Vivlamore points out that the Thrashers set a new franchise low for attendance during Thursday’s home game against the Blue Jackets, drawing an announced audience of 8,461 people after setting a previous low of 8,820 on October 15 against the Buffalo Sabres. He points out the team’s troubling attendance figures through five games.

Here are the home attendance figures so far this season:

Oct. 8 vs. Washington – 15, 596

Oct. 20 vs. Buffalo – 8,820

Oct. 22 vs. Tampa Bay – 9,138

Oct. 29 vs. Buffalo – 10,172

Nov. 4 vs. Columbus – 8,461

That’s an average home attendance this season of  10, 437. Take away the season opener and it is 9,148.

It’s pretty hard to spin those figures, but there are a few reasons for mild optimism.

For one thing, the Thrashers seem like they’re gradually improving, even though they are doing so in a pretty subtle way. Their 6-5-2 start is good for 14 points, which would make them the seventh seed in the East if the playoffs started.

The other “plus” is that they will host their best box office draw since that home opener against the Capitals tonight, as the team will play against the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks. Considering the star power of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane – along with the fact that it’s on an ideal Saturday night – my guess is the attendance should be dramatically better for at least one evening.

Unfortunately, one good night doesn’t heal all wounds. Perhaps the Thrashers need more stability (or wins) to generate fan interest. Maybe they miss the marquee talents of Ilya Kovalchuk. Whatever the case may be, Atlanta needs to put more butts in seats.

NHLPA hire Bruce Meyer brings a ‘wealth of knowledge,’ says Fehr

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Bruce Meyer’s résumé of victories as a lawyer is a long and impressive one, and he has now joined the NHL Players’ Association as a senior director of collective bargaining, policy and legal, the union announced Thursday.

During his tenure of more than 25 years at the law firm Weil, Gotshal and Manges LLP, Meyer represented the NHLPA, NFLPA and NBPA.

The NHLPA said in a statement that in his new position, Meyer “will focus on a wide array of policy and legal issues.”

In working for those unions, he was involved in matters such as collective bargaining and arbitration, as per his online profile.

“Bruce will be a great addition to the NHLPA’s staff. He brings a wealth of knowledge to this new role coming from his law firm where he gained three decades’ worth of valuable experience, including effectively representing the NHLPA and other Players’ Associations as outside counsel,” said NHLPA executive director Don Fehr in a statement.

The NHLPA said Meyer will begin at his new position in mid-August.

The news of this hire comes more than a month after the league sued the NHLPA after Dennis Wideman‘s 20-game suspension for hitting linesman Don Henderson was reduced to 10 games by a neutral arbitrator.

Related: Report: NHL dismisses neutral arbitrator who reduced Wideman’s suspension

Sweet ride: Blackhawks sponsor CJ Wilson Racing’s Porsche Cayman at Road America

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Chicago Blackhawks fans, start your engines!

Yes, according to MotorSportsTalk, the Blackhawks have become the main sponsor of CJ Wilson Racing’s No. 35 car, a Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport, for the upcoming IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge event at Road America next month.

That’s a sweet ride.

From MotorSportsTalk:

The partnership will officially launch at the United Center on Wednesday, August 3, from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m in advance of Saturday’s race. Fans will have the opportunity to get up close to the car, meet the drivers and Blackhawks Ambassador Denis Savard, and have their picture taken.

The race takes place Aug. 6 at Road America in Wisconsin.

Third team’s the charm? Devils ink Gormley to one-year, two-way deal

<>during the first period at TD Garden on November 12, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.
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Since being selected by the Coyotes at 13th overall in the 2010 NHL Draft, Brandon Gormley has had a difficult time breaking into the league on a full-time basis.

On Thursday, the 24-year-old Gormley joined his third NHL team, signing with the New Jersey Devils on a one-year, two-way deal worth $650,000 at the NHL level, the club announced.

Despite his draft status, Gormley has yet to play a full season in the big league, although this deal could give him an opportunity to end that. For the Devils, the deal adds more depth to the blue line in the organization and for a friendly price.

Last season, Gormley split time between the Colorado Avalanche and its farm team, the San Antonio Rampage. Despite some high expectations about where he could fit on the Avs’ blue line, he was eventually put on waivers in January.

He ended the season with one assist in 26 games with the Avalanche, and hit the open market after Colorado didn’t give him a qualifying offer.

Wild sign Dumba to two-year, $5.1M deal

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After ongoing contract talks between the Minnesota Wild and restricted free agent defenseman Matt Dumba, the two sides have come to a deal.

The Wild announced Thursday that they had signed Dumba to a two-year deal, worth a total value of $5.1 million.

A breakdown of the new deal:

— In 2016-17: $2.35 million.

— In 2017-18: $2.75 million.

Selected seventh overall by the Wild in 2012, Dumba had his most productive campaign this past season, with 10 goals and 26 points in 81 games.

Known for his offensive skills — he had 20 goals and 57 points with Red Deer in the WHL in his draft year — Dumba also brings a coveted right-shot to the Wild blue line, which features four players with contracts of four or more years of term remaining.

As per General Fanager, the Wild still have $2.168 million in projected cap space, but they have secured all their remaining restricted free agents.