With the Atlanta Thrashers now gone from the deep south of the United States and making their home in Winnipeg, there are a host of fans in Atlanta and around Georgia that are now left without a local team to root for. Go ahead, make jokes about how Thrashers fans are just a figment of Gary Bettman’s imagination, but they’re real and now they’re hockey fans without a pro hockey team, a problem the Nashville Predators have already started to try and cash in on by offering enticing ticket packages for former Thrashers fans.
Now the Predators are going to potentially have some serious competition from another southern team to try and keep Thrashers fans in the mix in the NHL.
Luke DeCock of the Raleigh News & Observer shares news that the Carolina Hurricanes are thinking about making their move into the Atlanta market by showing up there next preseason to play a game and win over fans of their former division rivals. The one guy that knows all about how that works is current Hurricanes forward and now former Thrashers forward Anthony Stewart as he’s seen how great some of the Atlanta fans were up close and personal.
“There’s some passionate fans there,” said new Hurricanes forward Anthony Stewart, who played for the Thrashers last season. “I’m on Twitter pretty much every day, and they seem passionate about that. I’ve heard some fans say that their next team is going to be Tampa or Nashville or Carolina. It’s definitely worth it.”
Making the competition a bit stiffer to win those fans over, as DeCock mentions, the Predators and Hurricanes each getting about 40 games on Atlanta cable TV outlet SportSouth. While the Atlanta Spirit Group didn’t do much of anything to help Thrashers fans fall in love with the team by treating it like a poorly run bodega rather than a sports franchise capable of making money, both the Predators and Hurricanes are more than happy to court those jilted by the loss of their team.
Sure it might seem like vultures swarming over a carcass in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a good move to keep those fans that did love hockey entertained and winning over more fans in the deep south is never a bad thing. The one catch here in this competition between the two teams is proximity. Nashville is about a four hour drive from Atlanta whereas Raleigh is about a six to seven hour drive if you can fight off Atlanta traffic without a problem. Having the games on TV is a great thing because, let’s face it, hockey fans no matter where they are want to see it. Getting those fans to come out to a game at some point might be a bit tougher thanks to those tough commutes.
Still, it’s nice to see at least two other teams do something for Thrashers fans that their own team never felt compelled to do in the first place: Care.
With training camp and the preseason now in full swing, it appears the Bruins are bringing in a veteran blue liner — at least on a professional tryout.
On Friday, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that unrestricted free agent blue liner Christian Ehrhoff is about to join Boston on a PTO following his showing at the World Cup of Hockey.
In six games with Team Europe, Ehrhoff had three assists — all at even strength — and nine shots on goal.
Ehrhoff is now 34 years old, and the Bruins already have a pair of seasoned defenders in Zdeno Chara (39 years old) and John-Michael Liles (35 years old) on their roster. Adam McQuaid turns 30 years old in October.
He was most productive during two seasons in Vancouver, a puck-moving defenseman that could effectively skate the puck out of trouble and move the attack that way if need be. But that was from 2009 to 2011. His production has dipped, especially over the last three years.
He was also pivotal to Vancouver’s power play, especially in 2011 when the Canucks won the Presidents’ Trophy and made it to the Stanley Cup Final — against Boston.
Again, that was five years ago.
Lehner (forearm contusion) to miss preseason game versus Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs play the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. But No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews won’t be in the lineup, according to multiple reports.
“Sooner or later, he’s going to get in, but not tonight,” said assistant coach Jim Hiller, as per the Toronto Sun.
“The lineups are day by day. They (World Cup players such as Matthews, Milan Michalek, Leo Komarov and James van Riemsdyk) went through a solid three weeks. It’s a little break, a little down time. There are tons of games coming. They’ll get a lot of ice time. They’ll get in shortly.”
(The report also notes that Matthews is not dealing with a health issue, which is obviously good news for the Leafs.)
Matthews played for Team North America at the World Cup held in Toronto. He had two goals and three points in three round robin games, but the young North American team was unable to advance to the semifinal round.
The Maple Leafs play the Montreal Canadiens at home on Sunday.
McLellan: Maroon’s lower-body injury not considered serious
It appears Patrick Maroon‘s injury from Wednesday’s preseason game against the Vancouver Canucks looked worse than it is.
The Edmonton Oilers forward was in obvious pain immediately after he went hard into the boards from an awkward hit delivered by James Sheppard just past the midway point of the third period. Maroon needed help to the bench and was unable to put much, if any, pressure on his left leg.