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.