Thrashers’ situation an ominous sign for Panthers May 16, 2011 12:55:17 GMT -5
Post by THANK YOU DARREN FORD! + TNSE! on May 16, 2011 12:55:17 GMT -5
Thrashers’ situation an ominous sign for Panthers
by: Harvey Fialkov May 15th, 2011 | 2:51 PM
Although the Lightning are on a nice roll, it’s no secret that Southern hockey isn’t thriving. Covering games at Philips Arena in Atlanta this year I noticed how dead the ambience is and how poor the attendance is. That wasn’t the case at most Panthers games this season. Sure, many of the packed houses, particularly against teams from Canada – were pulling for the opposition, but it was still a fun atmosphere. I know ticket prices were discounted and freebies were handed out – much to the chagrin of many season ticket holders who pay top dollar – but who could blame pres/CEO Michael Yormark for trying to generate interest by filling the seats?
Clearly, he’s banking on GM Dale Tallon to reverse the 10-year playoff drought by putting together a winning product. But no matter how Commissioner Bettman or Yormark spins it, how long can the franchise and owner Cliff Viner continue to bleed money before the NHL steps in like they did in Phoenix? While Yormark, to his credit, is selling the rights to anything that’s not nailed down, including the ice surface, the race is on.
I’m not sure how a move by Atlanta would affect the Panthers other than perhaps a need to realign the divisions. What do you think?
This is the excellent article in the Winnipeg Sun on the Thrashers’ situation.
Two days into the Atlanta Thrashers watch, and it’s been hard to find one reason to believe the NHL’s latest hotspot franchise won’t just burn right up and move, like the Flames before it.
First, NHL brass acknowledges it can’t guarantee the Thrashers will be in Georgia next season.
Normally, Gary Bettman and Bill Daly talk around questions like that.
Scribes in Atlanta, while calling for the NHL to fight for the team the way it did for the Phoenix Coyotes, say it’s all but over. One said Friday he’s 95% sure the Thrashers are moving to the ’Peg.
But the most telling comments I’ve seen came from one of the Thrashers owners, Bruce Levenson, who talked to an Atlanta TV crew before the Hawks/Chicago Bulls game, Thursday night.
A few things about Levenson’s interview stood out.
One, when he was asked if the solution — finding a buyer to keep the team in Atlanta — was any closer than it was two months ago.
“I don’t think so, no,” Levenson said.
Two, when he was asked about the possibility he and his partners could hang in there another year while they look for a buyer.
“That’s a scenario we haven’t even thought about it,” was his mind-boggling reply, apparently contradicting the suggestion Daly made the same day, when he suggested another year for the same owners, in the same place, was possible.
And last, but certainly not least, Levenson was asked what he’d say to fans wondering where the whole thing stands.
“If you know anybody who’s interested, have them get in touch with us,” he said.
Not, “Hang in there, we’re doing everything we can.” Not, “Keep the faith.” Not, “Buy your season tickets to help us out.”
Instead, Levenson wondered aloud if there was a billionaire in the cheap seats who might have an extra $110 million in his jeans that he wouldn’t mind spending, between beers and hot dogs, to keep hockey in Hot-lanta.
He looked and sounded like an owner who’s given up.
Add it all up, and things look pretty bleak for fans down there, pretty bright for folks up here, at least the ones ready to buy back into the bigs.
Unless, that is, you believe in mystery buyers like “The Balkan,” an unidentified saviour reported in certain Atlanta circles as willing to buy the Thrashers, Hawks and Phillips Arena and keep them all right where they are.
Seems to me there’s about as much chance of that guy existing as a balcony billionaire in torn jeans with cash falling out of his pockets.
Of course, the other side will tell you they’re already charging credit cards for Thrashers season-ticket payments, that the Manitoba Moose started selling next season a week ago and that the Carolina Hurricanes scheduled an exhibition game against Atlanta for Sept. 25, in Charlotte, N.C..
But those are all just details, payable today, refundable tomorrow.
Yes, it’s getting awfully late to relocate an NHL franchise, maybe an AHL one, too, for next season.
I don’t pretend to know which way this one’s going to go, any more than I know which way Phoenix will go.
But I will interrupt the hysteria to offer a dash of sober, second thought.
As thrilled as most of us will be with the return of big-league hockey to our soggy burg, does it really have to be the Coyotes or Thrashers?
I mean, these two franchises have thinner histories than Tweet Deck.
Between the two of them, they’ve missed the playoffs 17 of their last 22 seasons.
Neither has won even a single playoff series, Atlanta not a solitary playoff game.
Why can’t the Sharks or Lightning be on the move, instead?
Then again, given the sorry recent history of the Blue Bombers, and before that the Jets, the Thrashers would fit right in.