Thursday, 26 May 2011

Denial No More

I'll be the first to admit that I never wanted or thought that the NHL could or should return to Winnipeg. As much as I love my hometown, I thought that the city was just too small to support an NHL team in what will be the smallest building in the NHL. I was happy with a competitive AHL club that routinely attracted very good free agents, and the Vancouver Canucks had done a superb job in drafting high-end talent that the Moose put on the ice. I, for one, thought that Winnipeg could be a cornerstone franchise for the AHL for many years to come in the same vein that Hershey or Rochester is, and the fifteen years that the Moose spent here were very productive as they build a brand and a winning reputation. However, from all accounts and reports I have seen and heard, it sounds like the NHL will return by next week's time if everything goes as planned.

I'm kind of excited to see some of the NHL stars I haven't seen in person play on the ice of MTS Centre. If the relocated franchise does indeed stay in the Southeast Division for at least one year, we'll get three visits from Alexander Ovechkin and two visits from Sidney Crosby - nothing builds momentum like having arguably the game's two biggest stars roll through your building as you build a brand and an identity despite having the crowd dressed in Capitals and Penguins jerseys.

With the reported relocation of the Thrashers to Winnipeg, it appears that the Moose will make their way east to St. John's, Newfoundland where they will take up residence in Mile One Arena as the new tenants. While all parties are currently denying this to be true (for good reason at this point), it seems inevitable that the Moose will be displaced. In seeing them go, I'm hoping my work with the Moose will allow me an opportunity to work with the relocated NHL franchise, and I cannot thank the Moose enough for allowing me the opportunity to blog for them and work with them.

I guess what I am saying is that I'm mentally prepared for the next step at this point after trying to not get caught up in the hype of the Phoenix Coyotes drama. There was a time where I wouldn't even speak about franchise relocation to Winnipeg because it seemed like a pipe dream at the time. Sure, the Coyotes were struggling financially (and still are), but there were more reasons for them to stay than to leave at the time.

When the relocation fever hit a new high after the Coyotes were eliminated from the playoffs this year, I wrote the Coyotes off again thanks in large part to the NHL seemingly being determined in keeping the Desert Dogs in Arizona. I wanted to hear nothing about relocation because it seemed as though for every step Winnipeg got closer to getting the former Jets back, the Coyotes moved further away through the efforts of the City of Glendale and the NHL.

There had been rumours two years ago that the Thrashers could possibly move to Winnipeg, but I again wrote this off because of the vast number of large companies and wealthy businessmen located in Atlanta. I figured that there was no way that a metropolis such as Atlanta would let its NHL team leave for the second time in its history. I learned, thanks to a few people, that hockey ranks low on the scale of entertainment dollars on which Georgians spend their money. Nothing is going to supplant football as the top sport in Georgia, and I think that hockey in Georgia may always be a fringe sport or a niche sport for individuals.

That's not to say that there weren't fans of the Thrashers in Georgia, though. The Thrashers had their die-hard fans who supported the team and came out to games whenever they could. I feel for these fans because it's like a part of you dying when you lose something you invest yourself in personally for so long. I went through the Jets leaving for Phoenix, and it really hurts. Anger will also take over when people talk about the NHL because something you love was taken from you, and all you can do is helplessly stand by and watch. For lack of a better term, it sucks.

Because of this, I want to extend this blog space to some of you in Georgia who love the Thrashers. If you want to continue to write about the Thrashers, please contact me so that you can be a featured blogger here on HBIC. I encourage any Atlanta Thrashers blogger to give me a shout because I don't think that Winnipeggers should be overjoyed when you're losing a team in the same manner that we did. It was painful to watch Phoenix celebrate their new-found NHL team, and I'm not going to stomp all over you in your time of despair. So I encourage you, Atlanta Thrashers fans and bloggers, to contact me for an opportunity to cheer on OUR team some more as well as having a place to vent and rant over the loss of your hometown team.

That being said, I expect an announcement either towards the end of next week or after the Stanley Cup Final ends. Either way, though, it looks like the NHL will be playing out Winnipeg for 41 games next season.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

mtjaws said...

I lived in Atlanta before the Thrashers arrived, and enjoyed seeing the IHL Knights play at the old Omni. If I still lived there, for sure I would love seeing NHL hockey, even if the home team wasn't as good as the visitor.

As we see with the Braves, Hawks, and Falcons, Atlanta is full of fair-weather fans, and attendance only swells for winning teams. Sure there are the diehards, but it's the empty seats that show up on TV. (My favorite FL Panthers are in the same exact boat, but without the ownership struggles now.)

It takes a committed owner to put a winning team together, and that brings fans to the games, and keeps them coming back. But the Thrashers group botched step one, and now the city will lose another team. I wish someone would keep them in Atlanta, but don't see any chance of that now. The SE division won't be the same, but maybe Nashville or Columbus will swap divisions soon.

And as a fan of the Coyotes too, I am glad they have one more shot at staying there too. We'll see if it ends up like Atlanta though.