The Thrashers are all but gone. Just a rubber stamp from Gary Bettman and the NHL Governors (and $60 million in the pockets of the team owners) stands in the way of Atlanta losing our NHL team.
There has been and will be a lot of "the fans didn't support the team" in the next few weeks and months.
It's simply not true. There are plenty of Hockey fans in the Atlanta area, you see them every time the Red Wings, Rangers, Leafs and Habs visited Philips area. The people who came to watch their home team take on the Thrashers. The guy you sat next to wearing the Red Wings Jersey that night was wearing a Thrashers jersey two nights ago.
Youth hockey in Atlanta has grown in multiples in the past 10+ years. Where there were only 2 sheets of ice once, there are 7 now. Where the youth teams struggled to fill rosters 10 years ago, they're winning national championships. College teams have grown, High School Hockey is thriving and ice time is hard to come by these days.
I've seen Thrashers hats, shirts, and jerseys in cities that I've visited in the US and Canada, there are fans that post to Bird Watchers Anonymous, facebook, twitter and other blogs from all over the world. On trip to Quebec last year people there not only knew that Atlanta had a NHL team, they knew our players and wanted to talk to us about Hockey in the South.
It's not our fault fans, don't ever let anyone get away with saying 'you didn't support your team', or 'hockey doesn't belong in the south'.
The reason that the Atlanta Thrashers will be no more after June 21st falls on the shoulders of Atlanta Spirit. The group of people who thought that owning a NHL team was "an expensive hobby" and admitted that "there just wasn't enough passion" in the group about owning the Thrashers. A group of spoiled brats who thought it would be fun to own a sports team, but didn't understand how to own it, how to grow the business and how to put a winning team on the ice consistently.
Ask Bob Hartley, who was fired after the team made the playoffs for the first time. Ask former Flames goaltender Dan Bouchard who tried to get ASG to remember the history of Atlanta hockey and involve the Flames alumni that live in the area. Ask the Thrashers staff who had no idea if they would have a job on a daily basis. This wasn't a business to ASG, it was a "hobby".
And no one should expect 18,000 people to pay to watch you fail at your hobby.
Please, don't blame True North Sports and Entertainment They have been looking to bring the NHL back to Winnipeg for years, they found an opportunity to buy a team who's owner was neglecting it and I hope that they are successful in Winnipeg. They are getting a great group of players and if they're smart, they'll neglect to offer Don Waddel a position.
Don't blame the people of Winnipeg. This wasn't an Atlanta vs. Winnipeg fight, They've been where we are now, they are great hockey fans and deserve a NHL team, even though we all wish it wasn't our team.
I'm sure that my fellow Thrashers fans are feeling the same sadness as I am about never getting a chance to say goodbye to our team, I for one plan to be in Charlotte when the Winnipeg _______ take on the Carolina Hurricanes and I will be there in my Thrashers sweater to give the team a proper goodbye.
In the meantime, support your local ECHL team, support youth hockey in Atlanta, and let's keep the memory of the Thrashers alive and strong.