Thrashers Fans Rally To Keep Team In Atlanta

Thrashers fans rally during Select-A-Seat event, burn Winnipeg Jets banner

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While it’s far from official, conventional wisdom indicates that the Atlanta Thrashers will relocate to Winnipeg. This would be the second time that an NHL team left the Atlanta market, but that doesn’t mean that Thrashers fans are totally nonexistent.

About 200 Thrashers fans rallied* during the team’s “Select-a-Seat” event this afternoon, according to sources such as the CBC. Reporters described a scene tinged with resigned disappointment, but plenty of passion.

* – Although some are apparently calling it a “tailwake,” which I’m guessing is a mash-up between a wake and tailgating … let’s just move on.

While the event captured some of the passion of Thrashers fans, there was also a sense of bitterness. SBN Atlanta featured this video of Thrashers fans burning a “Go Jets Go” banner to show how they feel about the team’s potential move to Winnipeg.

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The greatest source of derision and anger was The Atlanta Spirit Group, the owners of the Thrashers, Atlanta Hawks and Phillips Arena. Having Hawks mascot Harry the Hawk on hand might not have been the savviest PR move, either.

It hardly helped the mood that Harry the Hawk, the mascot of Atlanta’s NBA club that is also owned by the Atlanta Spirit, rode up on a scooter, hopped off and handed out some high-fives before stopping to put his mouth over the head of Zanna Huff, a bystander wearing a Thrashers jersey.

“Now he’s trying to eat my girlfriend’s head, which is disgusting,” said Bryce McNeil, a 33-year-old professor at Georgia State. “Having Harry the Hawk here — it’s not that I have anything against the Hawks, but it’s the Atlanta Spirit shoving their other asset in our face, which is just deplorable.”

Thrash, the hockey team’s mascot, didn’t make it out in the 90-degree heat until three hours into the event, but no players or members of the front office were in attendance. On the Internet, atlantathrashers.com didn’t mention the gathering, but salespeople were inside the arena processing credit card orders.

(snip)

“We’ve been like the redheaded stepchild of Atlanta sports,” [Thrashers fan Bill] Sengstacken said. “(The Atlanta Spirit puts) money into the Hawks, and I appreciate that for the basketball team, but hockey is a great game, too, and in this market in particular you’ve got to market.”

Want a better idea of the overall atmosphere at the rally/tailgate/last hurrah? Check out some photos taken by Kevin C. Cox of Getty Images. (Cox also provided this post’s main image.)

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Finally, John Amis of the Associated Press provides this photo of Thrashers fans burning that Jets banner.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Brian Boyle #11 of the Tampa Bay Lightning reacts after losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final with a score of 5 to 2 during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

Read more about Game 6 here.

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with his teammates Sidney Crosby #87 after scoring a goal against Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jason Behnken/Getty Images)
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The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

What if that offside goal counted?

Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

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Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

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With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.

Video: Phil Kessel displays incredible hand-eye coordination on goal

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This has been a tough postseason for Phil Kessel haters.

The supposed “choker” is on a team that’s in the Eastern Conference Final, but Kessel obviously isn’t just in for the ride with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He scored his 18th point in 17 postseason games by scoring the 1-0 goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6.

(Watch that goal in the video above.)

It was a dramatic first period, with a Jonathan Drouin goal getting disallowed and Andrei Vasilevskiy making some huge saves on tough chances.

Can Pittsburgh protect this slim lead with 1-0 down one period? We’ll see, but either way, what a great postseason for Kessel.

Update: Here’s the goal Kessel accidentally “scored” for the Lightning:

Ouch.