Tag-Archive for ◊ Atlanta Thrashers ◊

07 Oct 2011 Stuggling to Find (NHL) Love Again
Jaromir Jagr

Can this man help heal a broken heart? Here's hoping!

It’s the start of the hockey season — normally a source of great excitement and joy in my family — but I am bereft. My team is gone, spirited away to a better place. A real hockey market — where people actually deserve it.

Right.

I can’t express how tiresome those sentiments have become. But before I spiral into despair over the loss of my Atlanta Thrashers, I thought I would attempt to compile a list of things that are keeping the gossamer thread of love for the NHL intact for me. You know, the kind of exercise completed by depressed people and Oprah disciples trying to force themselves to be more grateful. So here is my self-indulgent, things-that-keep-me-hanging on list…

1.) Fantasy Hockey
If it weren’t for my long-standing fantasy teams, I may have thrown up my hands in disgust and just gone back to being a college football fan like I (as a person living in the South) am expected to do. But I have built many good friendships through my involvement in fantasy hockey and am the commish of a 12-16 team all-girls league. Looking forward to helming my own virtual teams once again has helped me through the bleakest of bleak times.

2.) Boomer Gordon, on-air personality for Sirius/XM’s Home Ice channel
Oddly, I used to kind of dread hearing his voice. It’s not your typical “Hey! I’m a radio guy!” voice, and I used to think he sounded a little drunk on air, but over the five or six years I’ve been listening, he’s become a true favorite. He can be excessively harsh, but has always been fair about the Thrashers, where most people haven’t. Maybe it’s because he is an Islanders fan. No matter, his show has been the one hockey program I could bear to listen to this summer.

3.) Jaromir Jagr
Thank you Jags for returning to the NHL! The anticipation of seeing one of my longstanding favorites has given me something to look forward to, now that I have no team to call my own.

4.) The KHL
I know it sounds crazy, but bear with me. Regular readers know that Sasha and I are Russophiles. We’ve been studying Russian and have traveled to Moscow several times now to watch hockey and raise some hell. My all-time favorite player (anyone care to name him?) is still playing over there, and I try to follow his career from afar. Being able to still be interested in hockey (any hockey!), I think, will help me pull out of this funk so I can one day love again.

5.) Anger
Now that my team has been stolen away, I have powerfully negative feelings toward certain players who dissed Atlanta and, of course, the team I used to love. Hate is the other side of love after all. And just maybe looking forward to cheering against a team will help heal my broken heart.

I’d love to hear from other Thrashers fans — how are you coping with the loss of the team? What keeps you hanging on?

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01 Jun 2011 Searching for Perspective

Click on BBC World News and remember that this is just a game. Look around your city and see those less fortunate. Contemplate for a minute that you could have a disease with no hope for a cure. Imagine the many, many things that would be worse than your city losing a hockey team.

That’s what I did today. Yes, I spent about 15 minutes with tears in my eyes. Then I shook myself and (hard as it was to do) forced myself to acknowledge that it could be so much worse. What happened in Atlanta is very upsetting but, in the end, the sun will rise tomorrow.

Tomorrow, God willing, I will still have my family, my friends, my health. I will have a home to live in. There is no war in the streets. My city hasn’t been destroyed by a tornado. There was no tsunami here. No nuclear meltdown. I have the freedom to choose what to do with my life. I have food on my table and money in my pocket. I am blessed with the leisure time to worry about such things as sporting events, where grown men play a child’s game for a living. Though I feel like I’ve lost my best friend, the most important things in my life are real and unchanged.

I guess I have arrived at the last stage of the grieving process. I accept what has come to pass.

Don’t get me wrong, I hate the idea of my Thrashers in Winnipeg. I hate that I will never get to take my daughter to a Thrashers game. I hate what the Atlanta (no)Spirit Group has done to the image of the city I love. But I will get over it. As goofy as it sounds to paraphrase Sting, I am going to do it anyway.

I love this team and I’ve been forced to set it free. Because I love the team, I have chosen to mentally release them, along with all of the anger and hurt. It’s a relief. In so doing, I have realized I can remain a fan. This is still my team too. And, in spite of it all, I still believe in Blueland. I hope the people of Winnipeg will cherish this team and honor its past. I hope that fans in both cities will someday realize we were really fighting over the same thing. We all love hockey and, in the end, we are on the same team.

Photo: Thrashers fan from Reuters.

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30 May 2011 Letters to Gary, Part 4

Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovlachuk

Some fans point to the loss of Dany Heatley, left, as the beginning of the Thrashers' troubles.

In this edition, we have a letter from a family outlining the downward trajectory of the Atlanta Thrashers after a very promising start. The writer brings up several points that are seldom mentioned when discussing this issue: The effect of the NHL lockout on a fledgling market and the impact of losing Dany Heatley, an immensely popular player in the market. In addition, she mentions a lack of marketing to the unique market that is Atlanta and explains the needs (which were unmet) in an up-and-coming market. Let’s take a look:

May 19, 2011 12:44:50 AM
To: GBettman@NHL.com

Dear Mr. Bettman,

I doubt I can say anything that hasn’t already been said about my team, the Atlanta Thrashers. I will just say that I feel the city deserves a real chance to succeed. Despite 10-ish years (I am excluding the lockout lost season), the Thrashers have never given fans a chance to love them.

The ownership group has been outstandingly apathetic, never marketing the team well when it did have super stars and just throwing up their hands, letting star after star walk away.

What a Mess!

There are many things that have added up to a perfect disaster for the Thrashers:

  • Dany Heatley’s departure seemed to start the decline — people here adored him and we lost a relatable, marketable personality when he left town. A personality like this goes a long way in attracting curious would-be fans.
  • The loss of countess other super stars (Heatley, Marian Hossa, Marc Savard, Ilya Kovalchuk, etc.).
  • The lockout year killed the excitement and momentum of the early years — a brutal thing to happen just a few years into our franchise. No season, no All Star Game (it was our year that year).
  • Open hostility on the part of the owners toward the fans (ask any season ticket holder about this).
  • Inability to sustain any on-ice success.
  • A mere four playoff appearances. The 2006-07 playoff failure also seems to be a huge turning point in the franchise’s brief history.
  • Not to mention the economy, which has hit Atlanta harder than many cities.
  • A fan base that doesn’t know the game as well needs a teacher. I think Nashville and Dallas are two shining lights. Their example was not followed here.
  • Constant rumors of relocation don’t do anything to help lure fans either. Why come out for a team that won’t be around next year?
  • The diversity of the city needs a different, unique approach. The ownership group never courted diverse audiences or tailored their marketing message to reach different audiences. The potential is here to have a truly unique team and fan base. The team already boasts the largest number of black players of any team and that’s so perfect for this city! That kind of diversity is one of the foundations of this city. Think what this team could do for would-be players of diverse backgrounds if ownership committed to doing so! What a legacy to leave for generations.
  • But perhaps above all of this is ownership locked in a battle against itself in court for years and years. What a mess!
  • All of the above is a recipe for disaster. How could any team in any market succeed like this? Wouldn’t you like to know what solid ownership could do here in this vibrant, now recovering market — the capital of the New South?

    Making it Work

    With so many examples of how once-troubled franchises turned it around, I — a simple, humble fan — just ask for one real chance with committed, passionate owners. I am a native of Houston, where I have seen the Dallas Stars come to the state and enflame the love of hockey in kids and adults all over our great state. In point of fact, my old high school, just 30 minutes from Galveston Beach on the Gulf of Mexico now has a successful hockey team. Wow! The Stars, and to a lesser extent, the Houston Aeros, made that happen. The Thrashers have done good things for hockey in Georgia, but it could be so much better! I am a journalist in Atlanta and have lived here for 10 years. I truly believe this market can work. It worked early in the franchise’s history with Heatley and Kovalchuk, before the ownership and year after year of dreadful teams made it nearly impossible to lure fans.

    Your Vision

    I dislike the term “deserve” in reference to any city and a sports team, but I believe you made a visionary plan for expanding into non-traditional markets. This plan can work. The fans that exist in Atlanta — and there are many — will come back, and I truly believe that with the right ownership, new fans can be created thereby expanding the game we so love.

    I know you’re very busy and probably do not have time to read messages like this, but should you get it and take the time to read it, I want to thank you. Thank you for reading and thank you for your vision of hockey in the South. You are not wrong to believe in that vision and you would not be wrong to trust in the people and the city of Atlanta.

    Thank you again for your time.

    Sincerely,

    The B Family,
    Three true Southern hockey fans

    * I have replaced names with initials.
    ** These letters appear as they were sent to me. No editing has been done.

    Photo: Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk from atlantathrashers.com.



    27 May 2011 Letters to Gary, Take 3

    Hockey is for everyone?

    This sign says it all.

    As you might be aware, I asked the Blueland faithful to send me their letters to NHL Commish Gary Bettman. In this third edition we hear from a passionate fan who pleads with the NHL brass for a fair chance for Atlanta to succeed as a hockey market. She also touches on many of the issues the hockey fans in Atlanta want people who don’t live here to understand.

    Got a letter of your own? Please e-mail kaatiya[at]hockeygoddesses.com. We’d be delighted to post your letter here too. In the meantime, Thrasher fans STAY STRONG!

    Mon, May 16, 2011 at 12:22 AM
    Dear Commissioner Bettman,

    I am writing to you in hopes of helping keep the Thrashers in Atlanta. There are numerous reasons why I believe we should not lose our hockey team. I know you already know the stats about the growth of Atlanta, the TV market and the corporate promise of Atlanta. However, I don’t know if you’ve thought about the impact of losing hockey in Atlanta will have for the game of hockey.

    There has been a constant fight amongst the fans and the poor ownership, and can best be described as toxic. As a result, I do not believe the owners invested money, time, energy or passion into the hockey team. I fell that ii is apparent they are willing to just give up and sell the team without any hard and time consuming search. They have only been able to legally and seriously discuss selling the team for a few months. Mr. Bruce Levenson has never cared about the fans and created animosity when he told season ticket holders to “just deal with it”. I can’t believe the NHL cares about their fans, but allowed owners to have such a volatile and untrusting relationship with its fans. His comment for us fans to have interested buyers to contact him showed how serious they are about being owners of a team. Your average fan does not have enough money or contacts to just call up in a short period of time, if ever. If we are given time, maybe we as fans can find owners with the help of the NHL though. It would be a dream come true if I could own even 1% of a hockey team and I’d never forget the passion and love I have for the game and loyalty to the fans.

    It’s been up to the fans for the most part to market and sell the team. I strongly believe the grass root efforts to grow the fan base is working. Also, after all of this we know how close we are to lsoing them. Despite, the team’s struggles and no marketing late in the season, attendance was there for the games on the weekends. We continue to bring friends, family, and co-workers to games. Most people can’t help but to fall in love with the game after watching it live. I remember numerous times when I’ve heard people say they couldn’t wait to come back to see a game. The owners have not put forth the effort and energy to market and sell this time to the community effectively.

    If you question hockey’s growth here, I can give you just a few personal examples of how it is. My brother-in-law grew up loving the Flyers. He still is devoted to the Flyers, but the Thrashers are his second team and even admitted to me theThrashers may actually be his favorite now. My five year-old-nephew, Noah, LOVES the game of hockey. His favorite athlete is Zach Bogosian. He tells everybody his favorite thing to do is go see Bogie and the Thrashers. I’m an Auburn University alum and huge fan of the football team. This past season, I missed two AU games to attend Thrashers games. If you would have told me that even a year ago, I would have never believed it. I missed games in AU’s magical national championship season to watch Thrashers hockey! I remember watching Coach Chizik and the players after their first spring scrimmage and thinking that group would accomplish something special. I never knew it would happen in two years and result in a national championship. I get that same feeling with the Atlanta Thrashers team. I leaned over to a friend and told them I had that same feeling and he looked at me and said he agreed, there’s something special with this group. Please, don’t just take that away from a group of devoted fans without a fight.

    The team is finally just that, a team. I know Ilya Kovalchuck was a great player, but the team was centered around him. After he left, it felt like a shift had occurred and people were more positive about the Thrashers. We have a team with multiple players fans have found something to appreciate in and grown to admire both individually and as a team. Just when we have a team that fans are starting to watch come together and develop is just the beginning. I can’t help but have the feeling that if this group stays together in Atlanta, you’ll have a team that we will love because we watched them come together through all the growing pains and struggles into a competitive, fun and successful team. The signings of Dustin Byfuglien, Chris Thorburn and Mark Stuart to extensions of multiple years this past season finally gave us fans excitement, hope and optimism. Please don’t take that away from us so fast and without an attempt at a fight and search for new owners. This team was pieced together so beautifully last year by Mr. Dudley (in his first year as GM) and in some odd sort of way (intentional or not) resembles the city of Atlanta. It really feels like our team. The fan base is growing and minorities are probably the fastest growing group of fans. The city is just starting to embrace this team and with infectious personalities like Buff, Evander Kane and Andrew Ladd, growth is limitless regardless of skin color and social and economic classifications.

    Also, just look at the youth of Atlanta. Darren Eliot said there were 270 players at the Thunder AAA tryouts this past weekend. That despite all of the uncertainty of the home town NHL team that these kids follow and get inspiration from. One of the youth teams last year won a national championship and this past season I know I saw a story on another youth team winning a national tournament. If the Thrashers leave, the NHL loses these youth. High school hockey is just now taking off. If the Thrashers are not in Atlanta, the youth (and the public) will lose interest and the much needed support the Thrashers and the NHL provide. You never know, but the NHL leaving will stunt the growth of these players and the sport itself. We may just have the next Cam Fowler, Blake Geoffrion, Sidney Crosby, Blake Wheeler, Dustin Byfuglien or Tim Thomas in our growing hockey market. You take away the team they know, support and love and you take away their support system, love of the sport and any devotion they had because the NHL turned their back on them. The Thrashers being here provides the youth with inspiration, support, a goal to work towards and role models. Please don’t abandon the youth in one of the fastest growing hockey markets.

    This franchise has had to endure a lot. The horrible accident and death of Dan Snyder left an indescribable mark on the franchise. Dan Snyder is still remembered and loved in Atlanta. I remember how everybody said we would fall apart after the Kovalchuck trade. We didn’t, and I think you could ask anybody associated with the Thrashers, but it finally feels like we have a team, hope and potential. I will never forget Feb. 6, 2010, the first home game after the Kovy trade. The team had endured a trip from hell in the middle of the worst blizzard to get from DC to Atlanta. The game was delayed, but the fans were there in full force to support our team. The arena was loud and showed support for our new look team. There was no negativity and players’ post game comments thanked the fans for their support. It feels like we are finally a team and building together as a “family”. To have that ripped away so suddenly, would abandon the region and the future of the game of hockey.

    I don’t understand how the NHL could preach about fan loyalty, but then rip a team away from an emerging market. Fans of the Thrashers wouldn’t even get the chance to say good-bye or thank you to their team. Even if all we get is a guarantee of one more year, it buys us time to search for an owner(s), who do care and will share our love and support t for the team. Maybe a grassroots effort from fans will be what gets our team new owners.

    Wow, this turned out to be a lot longer then I intended. I will admit if felt cathartic to get that all out in this time of confusion, rumors and uncertainty. Thank you for your time and bringing the best game of all to this Southern belle’s life. Please, don’t let it leave without helping us fight for our beloved Thrashers.

    Sincerely,

    S.W.

    * I have replaced names with initials.
    ** These letters appear as they were sent to me. No editing has been done.

    Photo: Thrashers fan tailgate from Getty Images.

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    26 May 2011 Letters to Gary, Part 2

    Letter

    Letters sent to the NHL commish may as well have been written in a foreign language.

    As I mentioned in my previous entry, I am posting some of the letters Atlanta Thrashers fans have sent via e-mail to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on the subject of relocation. Below are several passionate letters sent on different days by the same fan.

    This man’s growing frustration and exasperation is evident. And why wouldn’t it be? This drama has been dragging on for weeks now. It is high time for someone in an official capacity to level with the people of Atlanta (and, let’s face it, Winnipeg too). Even if the news is the absolute worst, we deserve the truth. We deserve to know we are being heard! We spent thousands of dollars over the years “investing” in the team as management asked of us fans. Instead of our ticket reps. calling and asking us to re-up, let’s hear from someone in a position of power who can tell us just why, exactly, we should bother re-upping when the team is moving?! Where is the common courtesy we fans, er, customers (perhaps I mean suckers?) deserve?

    As before, I have substituted initials for the author’s name. The letters are otherwise unaltered. Keep those letters coming Thrasher fans!

    To: gbettman@nhl.com
    Wednesday, May 11, 2011 3:00 PM

    Good Afternoon,

    Keeping this brief: I appreciate all you’ve done to keep the NHL in Phoenix, Tampa, and Carolina. I hope you will exercise similar efforts in keeping my Thrashers in Atlanta. We have awful ownership that has hamstrung us for years.

    Respectfully,
    E.M.

    To: gbettman@nhl.com
    Monday, May 16, 2011 2:00 PM

    Hopefully this subject line isn’t already in the “mark for deletion” bin, but I am writing again to plead on behalf of Atlanta NHL fans facing the loss of yet another NHL franchise. I appreciate your statement last week confirming my suspicions that folks are just making stuff up. Supposedly Winnipeg is driving hard to grab my team and shuttle them up north. I have several points:

    1. Atlanta has not had quality ownership for 8 years.
    2. Other NHL cities have had the benefit of the NHL fighting hard to keep them in their cities.
    3. Atlanta deserves just as much effort.
    4. The NHL has invested a large amount of money keeping the Coyotes in Phoenix. Please don’t try to recoup those expenditures to the detriment of Atlanta fans.
    5. No threats of boycotts. Just a heartfelt plea to keep my Thrashers in Atlanta.
    6. If you build it, we will bring our friends back. We have never left.

    E.M.

    To: gbettman@nhl.com
    Sent: Wednesday, May 18, 2011 2:31 PM

    Many of us watched in horror as the Flames were dispatched to Calgary. I even witnessed my hometown Minnesota North Stars relocated to Dallas. While the Wild has been a well run organization, our Atlanta Thrashers have been run more poorly than any franchise in professional sports. The misnamed “Atlanta Spirit Group” never wanted the Thrashers, in my opinion, and only took them as a part of a package deal to obtain the Atlanta Hawks. Now the guys want neither. We as Thrashers fans are devoted to our team. And have watched approvingly as you fought well to keep Nashville, Carolina, Tampa, Pittsburgh, and recently, Phoenix in their locations. Please remain consistent and help us look out for the local interest, which seems very prevalent in your bylaws. There appear to be local buyers. We deserve at least as much effort as Phoenix. While I know the situation is moderately different, the loss of the Thrashers would be devastating to the Atlanta community, and the NHL as a whole would look bad.

    Thank you,
    E.M.

    To: gbettman@nhl.com
    Sent: Saturday, May 21, 2011 10:18 AM

    Swirling unconfirmed reports continue to call the move to Winnipeg a “done deal”, yet the NHL is silent. We deserve better than that from the NHL. Winnipeg fans deserve better than that. If this is a done deal, made months ago as some in the media are speculating, then all this “working to find a local buyer” is a sham. If no deal is done, and the Thrashers remain in Atlanta ultimately, Winnipeg fans will be understandably devastated.

    Hockey fans are proud and passionate. We will spar with one another, but there is a measure of mutual respect that binds us together, both north and south of the border. Does the NHL actually care about us? More than lip service and autoresponses? Make all the claims that Phoenix and Atlanta’s situations are different that you want to, the fact remains that Phoenix was fought hard for. Atlanta is being allowed to swing in the breeze. We have had abysmal ownership the past 8 years and we have endured it, while still making a respectable showing to games. We have been publicly excoriated by our ownership group when we dared to question a rise in season ticket prices after consecutive losing seasons. “Deal with it,” was the message, verbatim. Such contempt for fans, yet we still do NOT rank as the lowest attendance in the league. You have allowed this to go on. If the Thrashers are ultimately moved for 2011-2012, the NHL will be the laughingstock of professional sports. It is common knowledge how awful the misnamed Atlanta Spirit Group is. You know it firsthand.

    Assuming no NHL official goes on the record between now and Saturday afternoon, my son and I will be at our tailwake party. He’s been a hockey fan since 1998, right before the first year the Thrashers played. We discussed the Flames, and how “this was going to be different, and the NHL has a good market down here”. He played roller hockey for 4 seasons in Snellville, one of which I coached (primarily because there was a team without a coach), and he joined a travel league of under 8 year olds. From then until now, we’ve followed the Thrashers, but no time more than 2010-2011. He was excited to see his favorite player from the 2009-2010 cup champion Blackhawks in a Thrashers uni (Dustin Byfuglien). We watched every game televised, listened to Kamal call untelevised games and made it to a few games at Philips, including the final game vs the Pens. That place is a great atmosphere, even with all the turmoil of “imminent sale to Winnipeg”. And next season he is going to college in Nashville. I had considered buying him a partial season ticket package, just so he’d have a chance to remember the great times (and great “shouting at the TV” evenings) this season. He is my last kid to leave the house, and I will be devastated if the Thrashers leave. I have no delusions that my presence at a tailgate will change a gutless ownership group that just sucks more than gravity, but we will be there in our Thrashers jerseys. One from 1999, one from 2011. Potential bookends to a team franchise that had so much squandered potential. From dumb decisions such as the one to hang ones goalie hats on Damien Rhodes, through the Dany Heatley/Dan Snyder tragedy, the Kovalchuk departure, the Marian Hossa “hired gun”, all the way to possibly end with not so much as a real chance given to our great city to support a franchise that was hamstrung from 2003 on. Atlanta Spirit Group should keep the acronym, but change to Atlanta Shame Group.

    E.M.

    Thrash Fans: Have a Letter to Share?
    Send an e-mail to kaatiya[at]hockeygoddesses.com

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    25 May 2011 If I Felt Less, I Could Say More

    Ilya Kovalchuk

    Thumbs WAY down for the Atlanta Spirit Group. We deserved better.

    If you have been following the saga of my Atlanta Thrashers, you know all of the arguments being made for — and against — relocation of the franchise to Winnipeg. Though I have so much in my heart for the Thrashers, I have found myself unable to post about it here. Maybe I am still in denial.

    Nevertheless, I have answered the call to action from Thrashers fans far more organized than me. I’ve written letters, I’ve debated with Winnipeg fans, supported the tailgate/rally, contacted my ticket rep., badgered members of the media, begged, pleaded, taken the insults being thrown at my city and the fans of this team, even cried a little bit in private. Not that it matters. It seems the Thrashers’ ownership group has been hell bent on moving this team all along, having worked a backroom deal months ago. I can honestly say I did what (little) I could.

    I’ve asked some of the great people I’ve met through social media to forward me some of the letters they sent to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (and others). I received quite a few. I will post them here as a small sampling of the sentiments of Thrashers fans everywhere. These people say what I cannot. My heart is too full, too broken. Here’s our first installment of “Letters to Gary…”

    Mr Bettman,

    Please don’t allow the Atlanta Spirit to relocate my Thrashers this soon after beginning their search for a buyer. I am aware they have been wanting to sell my team for the entire time they’ve owned them, but did not have clear title to do so until December 2010. Given the unknown duration of litigation, I’m sure you can imagine why no outside buyers would have seriously considered the purchase from the Atlanta Spirit until after their lawsuit was settled.

    Five months is not enough time for due diligence. Five months is not enough time to determine relocation is the only answer left. Five months is not enough time for Atlanta Spirit and the NHL to determine that there are/aren’t local buyers interested in the purchase, and it’s not enough time for local buyers to complete their due diligence required to determine whether or not the purchase of the Thrashers is a real prospect they want to pursue.

    Given the NHL by-laws regarding relocation requests (have to be entered by Jan. 1st) there is not reason to rush this sale. If it turns out on December 31st that a relocation deal is the only deal on the table, then I completely understand the need to enter the request to the NHL to move my team. I implore you to allow more time for this process to take place.

    Best regards,

    M.W.

    * I have replaced names with initials.
    ** These letters appear as they were sent to me. No editing has been done.

    Thrashers Fans: Have a Letter to Share?

    We would love to have any letters you wrote to Gary Bettman, team representatives, NHL brass, city council members — anyone you might have been appealing to. Please send copies of your letters to kaatiya [at] hockeygoddesses.com . Thanks!

    Photo: Ilya Kovalchuk by Goddess Kaatiya. Copyright 2008. All Rights Reserved.

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    19 May 2011 Thrashers Rally — Be There

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    06 Feb 2011 Slava Kozlov Joins New Team for Playoff Push
    slava kozlov in Salavat colors

    Slava Kozlov will chase the Gagarin Cup with a new team.

    Former NHL star and current KHL player, Slava Kozlov, has changed his club right before the playoffs. His former team — CSKA Moscow — is having a poor season and the move enables him to continue his career on a more successful team. Kozlov has joined Salavat Yulaev — one of the strongest clubs in the KHL. The team’s coach, Slava Bykov, is a former player and a current manager of Russia’s national team.

    On Salavat Yulaev Ufa, Slava joins several other former NHLers including Viktor Kozlov, Dmitri Kalinin and Alexander Radulov. According to the official Salavat site, Slava will wear No. 32.

    The player himself commented his transfer, saying that his new colleagues were masters and it was pleasant to be with them on one team. Let’s see now how far Salavat will go through the playoffs.

    Photo: Vyacheslav Kozlov from Salavat Yulaev’s official website.

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    19 Dec 2010 Atlanta’s Unlikely Hat Trick Hero

    Eric Boulton

    Boulton celebrates career hat trick No. 1.

    No offense to Eric Boulton, but he was one of the last guys I’d have thought would show up Ilya Kovalchuk, last night at Philips Arena. But show him up he did — with a hat trick. It was quite the spectacle. A guy who grinds it out every night making mere pennies compared to his former teammate. A guy who has to claw and scratch to earn that money and his place on the team every night.

    And you really do have to hand it to him. If Kovalchuk feels humiliated by the way this season is going, having a hat trick scored against your team by a fourth-liner from the team you turned your back on … that’s gotta be hard on the ego. So applause to Boulton!

    Special props to “NHL On the Fly” for saying (with great enthusiasm) something along the lines of “We’ll have much more from Eric Boulton later in the program!” Has to be the first time he’s been used as a teaser. Let’s enjoy the moment.

    Photo: Eric Boulton from AtlantaThrashers.com.

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    10 Dec 2010 Getting Crafty With the Thrashers

    Members of the Atlanta Thrashers are putting their drawing skills on display. Most of the team participated in creating artwork for holiday cards, which are being sold at Philips Arena this month. Let’s examine some of their handiwork, shall we? (Click any thumbnail to see larger size).

    Great job guys! I love this idea. To see the rest of the team’s artwork, get yourself down to Philips Arena and buy a pack or two. The $25 purchase price will get you all 24 player-made cards, with proceeds going to charity. The cards go on sale at tonight’s Thrashers-Avalanche showdown. Just another reason to get down to the rink to watch YOUR Atlanta Thrashers (not yours Winnipeg, or Quebec City or Hamilton or [insert name of jealous Canadian city here]).

    I am sorry this idea didn’t play out last year, I would love to see what Slava Kozlov’s card would have looked like.

    Which card to you like best? What fun holiday events does your team do?

    Photos: From atlantathrashers.com

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    01 Dec 2010 Thrashers Shocking the Nation (and Canada)

    The Thrashers tied their record for consecutive wins tonight in Denver — enough said for now. Let’s do it again Thursday against the Penguins. As we once cheered for my alma mater’s football team which was rising in the CFB polls: SHOCK THE NATION! Let that be our new battle cry.

    Go Thrashers — shock the nation (and Canada too)!

    The final score

    The Thrashers score in OT to make it six straight wins.

    Photo: Pepsi Center scoreboard by Goddess Kaatiya. Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved.

        5 Comments


    30 Nov 2010 Now is the Time Thrashers — Bring it!

    Dustin Byfuglien

    Dustin Byfuglien is a huge part of the Thrashers' success so far.

    Having spent the last three days at Steamboat, skiing in pristine powder it’s safe to say I am experiencing a Rocky Mountain High. Looking at the Thrashers’ recent record — five straight wins — makes this heady feeling even stronger.

    I’m hanging around a few extra days to see the team in action at the Pepsi Center in Denver where they’ll be taking on Goddess Sasha’s Avs. Historically the Thrashers have faltered upon reaching five wins, which (naturally) leads me to fear I’ll be watching them hit yet another roadblock. But you know, this isn’t the Thrashers team of old. Far from it!

    What the team lacks in big names (no Hossa, Kovalchuk, Savard, Heatley, et. al.), they make up for in workers. Not worker bees in the drone, going-through-the-motions sense, but guys who come to win every night. That’s a serious change from previous years in which the entire team seemed to ebb and flow with a Kovalchuk streak or skid; or Kari Lehtonen’s groin. It was almost as if they were waiting for permission or for the time to be right to step up. Or that the league had counted them out so often they started to believe they were, and could be, nothing more than a mediocre team. But that was yesterday. Perhaps it’s just the right combination of youth and experienced leadership. Whatever it is, the team is just looking great.

    Now is the time for the Thrashers to go over the top, to break through the five-game stumbling block, blaze past their six-game win-streak record and keep on going! Let’s go Thrashers! And when the team returns home, fans, let’s get our buns in the stands and support this team. They deserve it.

    Photo: Dustin Byfuglien from Getty Images.

        2 Comments


    17 Nov 2010 Slava Kozlov Speaks Out on the KHL
    Slava Kozlov

    CSKA Moscow winger Slava Kozlov.

    Former NHLer and newly acquired CSKA Moscow forward Slava Kozlov says he hasn’t had any problems adapting to his Russian club.

    - I had been preparing to my comeback to Russia.  When I played for Atlanta I already planned to try myself in the KHL. It turned out that in the end I got back to CSKA — to the club which I had left 18 years ago. So I don’t have any troubles with adaptation in Russia.

    -I’m surprised by the new league. The KHL has a very high level of hockey. Organizational issues in the CSKA are OK, too. We have all the conditions to show our best game.

    Slava Kozlov

    CSKA Slava Kozlov

    Photos and interview (c) official CSKA website.

        2 Comments


    16 Nov 2010 Get Friendly With the Thrashers

    Atlanta Thrashers on Facebook

    Get free tickets for Facebook friending.

    Props to the Thrashers marketing people for coming up with a great idea to fill some of the empty seats in Philips Arena: Free tickets! Not just any free tickets though. You “friend” the team on Facebook, you get free tickets. That’s the great idea. Not only does the team get a chance to put some butts in the seats and make some dinero on concessions and parking, but they also get eyeballs for future marketing blitzes. I like this — and not just on Facebook! This is what the Thrashers need to be doing more of. Reaching out in unconventional ways, thinking of new, creative solutions instead of bemoaning the problem.

    I don’t think anyone could argue that the team has alienated many fans — whether by accident or neglect. To be fair, some of the problems have been beyond the team’s control, but many of them haven’t. A lack of marketing is definitely a problem I’ve seen for years. In a market like Atlanta, with so much going on, so many entertainment options and a population struggling in tough economic times, it’s hard to compete. With promotions like this, though, you can get the attention of the fans the team has lost and attract new ones. After all, the best way to make new fans is to get them to a game. So, in Facebook terms, this marketing campaign is a definite “like.”

    Now, the team has to find a way to make contact with people who aren’t actively following the Thrashers. I knew about the free tickets promotion because I follow them on Facebook already, read the team’s Tweets and get e-mails from the ticket sales staff. How does the team reach those who are NOT in touch with the team in these ways? That’s the next step.

    But one step at a time. For now, I am psyched the team is doing things like this. I hope it’s the first of many unique promotions. Get those fans through the doors! Let them see that hockey is the best sport in Atlanta — and that it’s worth fighting the traffic for!

        6 Comments


    30 Oct 2010 Burmistrov: The New Great No. 8?

    Alexander Burmistrov

    Fresh-faced Alexander Burmistrov celebrates his first NHL goal. He hasn't erased Kovy from Thrashers fans' minds ... yet ... but he could soon.

    I hate to admit it, but it has taken me a while to warm up to the new-look Thrashers.  Losing Ilya Kovalchuk was hard but, for me, Slava Kozlov’s departure was the cruelest blow.  My favorite player since he joined the Red Wings, I am still coming to grips with his leaving Atlanta (not to mention the way he left).  

    I’ve watched all of the Thrashers’ games this season and today there was just a tiny glimmer of feeling OK with this squad of (seemingly) all new guys. That glimmer? Alexander Burmistrov. Yes, the little teenager whom I wrote about in a draft preview scored his first goal for the Thrashers this evening, and it stirred up some old feelings of excitement and that thing all true Thrashers fans need a healthy dose of:  Hope.

    Let’s enjoy the goal and revel in the possibilities that are yet to come, because, yes, damn it, I still believe in Blueland.  I even believe that hey! He could turn into one of those electrifying, No. 8-wearing people that fans come out just to see. You never know. And you know what? To borrow a phrase from Washington Capitals fans and celebrity bloggers everywhere: Haters to the left. (Thanks Caps fans! ;-P ).  And go baby Burmistrov!

    Burmistrov’s First NHL Goal

    Photo: Alexander Burmistrov from atlantathrashers.com/Getty Images.

        One Comment


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