Thrashers-to-Winnipeg and the NHL’s relocation by-laws

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It seems like the Atlanta Thrashers’ relocation to Winnipeg is bound to happen at this point, but one cannot ignore a possible hurdle in the process. Even once the details of the sale are finalized, the transaction must be approved by a majority of the league’s owners in a Board of Governors meeting.

Chances are high-to-certain that they would approve that deal, but Laura Astorian of SBNation Atlanta wonders if that would trample upon the league’s by-laws when it comes to relocation. (If you would like to read through all of the by-laws yourself, Astorian provided them in this Google document.)

While Astorian’s account goes into detail about how the move can be construed as a violation of those by-laws, perhaps the biggest theme focuses on the missed opportunity in Atlanta. No doubt about it, that Georgia city has a huge population, though the natural debate revolves around how much of that public would be willing to spend money on season tickets to hockey games.

Here’s one part of the by-laws she pointed to (in bold) and her reaction to that section.

36.5. In determining whether to consent to the transfer of a Member Club’s franchise to a different city or borough persuant to Section 4.2 of the Constitution, each Member Club shall be guided by the following considerations:

(a) Whether the Club in question is financially viable in its present location and, if not, whether there is a reasonable prospect, based on any of the considerations set forth in subsections (b) through (j) below, or for any other reason, that it could become financially viable there, either under its present ownership or under new ownership.

Big question here is not if the Thrashers have made money, but whether they can make money? We’re in the city in the Southeast with the largest population, the 8th largest TV viewing area in the US, and there are 5.5 million people in the metro area. How could anyone state that the team can’t become financially viable under new ownership that correctly runs the franchise? It’s fairly obvious that under a decent business plan the team has a very solid chance of being viable.

It’s tough to argue with the notion that a more successful Thrashers team might have been able to draw more people. As many of you know, the Thrashers never won a playoff game in their franchise history. (They were swept in their only postseason appearance in 2007 against a mediocre New York Rangers team.) In most cases, winning is the best viral marketer and the Thrashers never really had the chance to “hook” people on the game with a big playoff run like, say, the Carolina Hurricanes did.

That being said, it probably doesn’t help the market’s cause that the Atlanta Flames left to become the Calgary Flames. Some owners might hold that against the market regardless of mistakes made by the owners. There’s also the matter of finding a local group to keep the team in Atlanta, something the Atlanta Spirit reportedly failed to accomplish.

Teams in non-traditional markets need a lot of things to go there way to capture the imaginations (and cash) of their potential audience. Star power and success are big factors in that process, but stable management and ownership are probably the most important engines. The Thrashers rarely had any of those things going for them, aside from the star power of players such as Ilya Kovalchuk, Marian Hossa, the ill-fated Dany Heatley era and Marc Savard’s brief run.

Fair or not, it’s unlikely that the Board of Governors will interpret the by-laws the way Astorian did. Perhaps someone will look to articles like these if the argument is made to take a third swing at bringing an NHL team to Atlanta in the distant future, though.

Ducks deny rally, end Penguins’ winning streak

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When Ondrej Kase cashed in on another breakaway opportunity for the Ducks to make it 4-1 in the second period, it looked like that goal would be icing on the cake for Anaheim. Even if it would be especially pretty frosting.

Instead, that stylish goal ended up being critical, as the Pittsburgh Penguins nearly rallied in the third period to at least send Wednesday’s game to overtime. John Gibson ended up holding down the fort, and with an empty-netter in the dying seconds, the Ducks ended up beating the Penguins 5-3.

You could call it a game of periods and close calls.

The Penguins entered the first intermission thanks to a 1-0 Evgeni Malkin goal, but the Ducks dominated the middle frame with their first four-goal period of 2017-18. The Penguins’ prolific power play helped them stay in the game (2-for-4, with both goals coming during that third-period comeback bid), but the rally fell short. Pittsburgh’s winning streak ended at four victories.

Some bounces went both ways, as Antoine Vermette nearly scored for the Ducks while Carl Hagelin suffered a near-miss. So maybe those missed opportunities cancel each other out?

From the Ducks’ perspective, this is the latest argument in favor of this team being a threat now that key pieces have returned to the lineup. This win begins what they hope is a successful five-game homestand, as Anaheim still needs to battle for its own playoff hopes.

The Penguins can’t ruminate on this loss for very long. They head to Los Angeles to face what must be a frustrated Kings team (four straight defeats, only two wins in their last eight games) on Thursday, with little reason to expect any mercy.

This last stretch of wins improved the Penguins’ outlook, but dropping games in back-to-back nights could make things tense again in a hurry. You can check out that Penguins – Kings game on NBCSN Thursday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Willie O’Ree celebrates 60th anniversary of debut with Bruins

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BOSTON (AP) Hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree was honored in Boston on Wednesday on the 60th anniversary of the Bruins forward breaking the NHL’s color barrier.

At a news conference at the TD Garden before the Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens, Mayor Marty Walsh declared Jan. 18, 2018 to be “Willie O’Ree Day”. O’Ree made his debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal.

Walsh called O’Ree a Boston legend who changed the city for the better and thanked him for his courage. As part of the celebration, the city dedicated a new street hockey rink in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood to be known as Willie O’Ree Rink.

A native of Canada, O’Ree, 82, had four goals and 10 assists in 45 games over parts of two NHL seasons. He spent a total of 21 years in pro hockey.

For the past two decades, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, spreading the message that hockey is for everyone.

More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Bruins cruise vs. Canadiens in Julien’s return to Boston

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Don’t blame Claude Julien if Wednesday made him think of better times, and not just because it was his welcome back night in Boston.

Coming into this one, it was a tale of two teams going in opposite directions, and the teams stuck to their scripts. The Boston Bruins remain red-hot with a 4-1 win, while the Montreal Canadiens are mired in mediocrity .. or worse?

When you’re as disappointing as the Canadiens have been, plenty of things are going wrong. It was a weak start even with a 1-0 lead and 1-1 first period in mind, and it obviously didn’t get any better.

Nights like these have to sting for Julien, a coach known for his sophisticated systems and eye for defensive detail.

There are questions about Max Pacioretty possibly being trade bait. People wonder if Jonathan Drouin or Alex Galchenyuk fit as centers, or if neither work that way. Yet, these performances make you realize that as exasperated as management must be, they may also appreciate more specific distractions.

Because, frankly, this was a team … non-effort.

Then again, the Bruins are a red-hot squad, so maybe they shine an especially harsh light on the Habs’ haplessness?

Boston generated a 32-22 shots on goal advantage in this one, with multiple contributors stepping up. Big guns came through (Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were among the goal scorers, Patrice Bergeron collected two assists), while David Backes and others added to the fun.

It was the kind of effort Julien would have been very happy with, if it didn’t come at his expense.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Anaheim Ducks

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PROJECTED LINEUPS

Pittsburgh Penguins

Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Canadiens vs. Bruins; Penguins vs. Ducks]

Ducks

Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Derek GrantRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg

Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase

Chris WagnerAntoine VermetteJ.T. Brown

Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour

Starting goalie: John Gibson