Tag: Atlanta spirit

Thrashers Flagging Fans Hockey

Atlanta-to-Winnipeg update: Last local bidder all but out of running for Thrashers


While we continue to keep an eye on the news surrounding the potential sale of the Atlanta Thrashers to True North Sports and Entertainment, a deal that was reported last week to being possibly done on Tuesday of this week, we find out today that hopes for a local buyer are dwindling fast.

Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports today that the last local prospective buyer interested in keeping the team in Atlanta is apparently all but out.

The last-ditch effort for a buyer willing to keep the team in Atlanta appears to have expired. I’m told that “probably, but not completely” the one final prospective buyer is now out of the picture.

This story has been nothing but disheartening for the hockey fans in Atlanta and getting this piece of news seemed all but inevitable as the Atlanta Spirit Group seeks to get out from under its self-imposed boondoggle in Atlanta and find a way a way to keep their own interests safe.

Meanwhile, Atlanta columnist Jeff Schultz is waiting on NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to drop into Atlanta to pledge his support to keep the Thrashers in the south the way Bettman and the NHL did to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix. So far, Bettman himself has been very quiet about things as the situation in Atlanta continues to crumble while the interests in Winnipeg wait patiently to celebrate in earnest at the return of the NHL to their Canadian prairie city. Schultz isn’t expecting to see anything from the NHL home office, however.

The team’s sale to a Canadian outfit and move to Winnipeg seems to have been a fait accomplifor a while now, notwithstanding the constant denials by Bettman, Thrashers’ ownership and anybody else who’s worried more about their own reputation than what’s wrong or wrong.

The only reason we know the move won’t be completed today is that it’s Victoria Day in Canada and the banks are closed. Alas, Bettman/NHL (relocation fee) and Bruce Levenson/Atlanta Spirit must wait on their millions.

Waiting is all that seems to be happening now as True North and Atlanta Spirit work out what should be a landmark sale that sees a franchise returning to Winnipeg for the first time in 15 years. Nothing about what’s going on is fair to the fans in Atlanta and it’s clear that Atlanta Spirit has failed as an owner in the NHL. Given that they’ve been trying to sell the team for nearly six years and have come up with nothing tells you all you need to know about the situation there. The NHL can’t afford to have two teams mired in ownership hell and with one obvious buyer at the ready for any franchise to purchase, the NHL has to take care of itself first.

Big business has a way of getting what it wants no matter what and the hockey fans in Atlanta are feeling the pain of that right now.

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

Thrashers Fans Rally To Keep Team In Atlanta

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.

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.


“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.)


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

Report: The Atlanta Spirit are still selling tickets to Atlanta Thrashers games


While many fans will criticize the Atlanta market for the very likely relocation of its second NHL franchise, people with more intimate knowledge blame ownership. Ultimately, the Atlanta Spirit never really did what was necessary to put a strong Atlanta Thrashers team on the ice. The team only made the playoffs once and failed to earn a single postseason win in that trip.

(It’s not like the Atlanta Spirit have been particularly outstanding at running the Atlanta Hawks, either. Joe Johnson is a talented basketball player no doubt, but giving him a $100 million contract is baffling.)

Still, one could give the Atlanta Spirit a break if they handled things with a bit more class. Instead, there are reports that they continue to sell tickets amid all the writing-on-the-wall rumors.

Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reports the Thrashers are still selling season tickets today, with one being sold. (I guess that person or business group doesn’t follow the news very closely, do they?) The Atlanta-Journal constitution also runs a regular “Ice Man” column that provides a fan’s perspective via Ben Tiller, who wrote this about the team continuing to run their regular “Select-a-Seat” promotion on Saturday.

Finally, to the members of the AS, LLC I make this challenge. If the reports are true and you have been plotting and scheming for months to rip this franchise from this community, then cancel the Select A Seat event scheduled for tomorrow. Do not continue this ruse…this deception…this scam …this tease one day longer. Do not accept a single dollar for tickets to games for a season you know will not happen in Atlanta.

In short, do the decent, honorable and upright thing…for once…and let the fans know today the truth of the situation. Don’t give an eager media looking to depict the turnout misrepresent the reality of the situation.

That way, you can at least say you were up-front and honest with us if even just this once in your disastrous seven years as owners…and Saturday afternoon can be a time of support, remembering and good-byes for those who plan on gathering at the Gulch.

Somehow, given the history, I’m not holding my breath …”

As Tiller pointed out earlier in his column, that Select-a-Seat event would likely attract local media members to document a moment that would make the Atlanta Spirit look rather silly. Thrashers fans are planning a rally to save the team for tomorrow, but with last night’s rumors and word that ownership is trying to squeeze every last buck out of the situation, it’s tough to imagine that rally being particularly spirited on Saturday.

Thrashers update: Local interest exposed, True North seeks Winnipeg’s help with debt

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The latest round of news revolving around the potential relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers reveals some not-so-great reports for both sides. Unfortunately for Thrashers fans, the outlook continues to be pretty grim on their end.

Many Thrashers fans attached some hope to a potential new local owner nicknamed “The Balkan.” That previously shadowy figure was revealed to be Detroit-arena venture capitalist JB Smith. Smith is reportedly interested in a package deal that would include the Thrashers, Atlanta Hawks and Phillips Arena. Unfortunately, various reports indicate that he might not have the cash to swing such a deal.

Beyond that, there is the rather thorny issue that the Atlanta Spirit group allowed San Diego Padres owner John Moores an exclusive window to buy the Hawks and Phillips Arena without the Thrashers. That same report indicates that Moores and the Atlanta Spirit still have a way to go to make a deal in that area, if it even gets done.

Based on recent evidence, it sounds like it would be awfully difficult to find a viable owner to keep the Thrashers in Atlanta, at least in time to satisfy the Atlanta Spirit group. Keep in mind this situation is still far from decided, though.

The last bit of news is that True North is asking for some government help to free up money to buy the Thrashers. True North hopes to free up debt from running the MTS Centre, the building that would house the relocated and re-named Thrashers. The difference is that it looks like local government will cooperate with True North, according to the Winnipeg Free Press. That stands in contrast to Atlanta’s perceived indifference toward keeping the Thrashers from moving.

Here’s the lowdown on True North’s negotiations with the city of Winnipeg, via the Winnipeg Free Press.

True North, which owns the MTS Centre, is looking to the province to help it manage the debt load it carries on the downtown arena in order to free up money to help pay for the relocation of the NHL team to Winnipeg.

A source said that request from True North is being studied by the province and in all likelihood will be accepted. The value of the request, or if it involves a low or no-interest loan, is not known.

“The building is a public asset,” said a source explaining why the province is interested in an arrangement that sees aid go to the MTS Centre. “It will never move.”

Keeping with previous patterns, signs point to the Thrashers moving to Winnipeg, but there are still a lot of moving parts involved right now. As always, we’ll keep you updated, as there could be quite a few twists and turns left.

Report: Atlanta Spirit,True North negotiating deal; Thrashers could relocate to Winnipeg


The rumors have been flying for quite some time now, but it seems like there’s fire to back up all that smoke. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Chris Vivlamore reports that the Atlanta Spirit and True North are indeed negotiating a deal that could relocate the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg.

Vivlamore points out that a deal hasn’t been completed and it is unclear how long the two sides have been negotiating, but it’s possible that the Thrashers could be relocated in time for the 2011-12 season.

The factors described in the report itself aren’t exactly “new.” After all, Joe already took a look at what the NHL’s divisional realignment might look like if the Thrashers moved to the ‘Peg. That being said, this not-quite-confirmed story that appeared in The Atlanta-Journal Constitution gives more concrete credibility to the rumors.

“I have never confirmed nor denied specific parties we have been talking to in regards to a possible sale of the Thrashers,” Atlanta Spirit co-owner Bruce Levenson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Monday.

Typically, confidentiality agreements are signed between parties in negotiations which would prohibit Atlanta Spirit ownership from identifying suitors.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, reach via e-mail, said there was “nothing I’m prepared to say at this point.” A True North Sports and Entertainment spokesperson had no comment.

Jeff Schultz expanded on the subject in a column for the AJC, pointing out that the outlook is grim but the move isn’t set in stone, either. Schultz mapped out three scenarios that could keep the Thrashers in Atlanta.

♦ 1.) A financial angel falls out of the sky. But thus far, no prospective owner has come forward with both a stated desire to buy the team and proof of his financial worth.

♦ 2.) Something falls apart on the Winnipeg end (with True North), or from the league’s perspective (other owners may be uncomfortable with the fact new local ownership for the Coyotes still isn’t assured).

♦ 3.) Bettman effectively stalls and gives the Atlanta franchise a one-year stay of execution, telling Levenson and the Spirit that the franchise can’t be moved for next season. It’s not believed the Atlanta Spirit could just walk away from the hockey team and throw the keys to the league. So it’s not certain what would happen if Bettman disallowed a move right now and the Spirit resisted.

While this situation doesn’t technically need to be resolved at a specific point, the league needs to put together a schedule for the 2011-12 season soon. Considering how antsy the Spirit is to get rid of the team (to be fair, they’ve reported losses in the $130 million range), they want to sell the Thrashers as soon as possible.

In other words, this story could develop really quickly.

Again, no deal is official yet. That being said, Thrashers fans must accept the possibility that their team really might move to Winnipeg this summer.