(Aka-Lightning never strikes twice…unless it does. Sometimes in multiple places. Confused yet….? Well holds on to your hats (or throw them on the ice) ….we’ve only just begun…)
Once there was a city that lost a hockey team. It was said at the time that a city in the southern US could never support an NHL franchise in the long run. It wasn’t the city’s fault…it was the latitude.
This theory, much like the whole “world is flat” thing…has since been disproven by the ongoing success of the Carolina Hurricanes. But nonetheless…away they went. Leaving Atlanta behind for the cozy winters in Calgary….where they promptly won a Stanley Cup four years later. And thus; for Atlanta the Flames were extinguished.
A few snow banks and 12 packs of Molson up the road, there was another Canadian city jealous of Calgary. In Winnipeg they already had a minor league hockey team that they loved and supported, but that wasn’t enough and they longed for the NHL. As it happened, sometimes (apparently) just wishing for something is enough. Soon they were awarded a team. And thus; with much fanfare….in flew the Jets. For a time, all was well in the great white North.
Meanwhile, back in the lower 48, a glimmer of hope had begun to shine in Atlanta. Now it was THEIR turn to field a minor league hockey team while dreaming for another chance at Lord Stanley’s grace. In to the rescue rode the Knights. …and lo and behold they were pretty good. They even garnered noticeable support from the fans. But alas, the day came that just like they true knights of old they disappeared. Atlanta was once again a town free of goalies and goons.
But at least the Canadians were happy. Right? Well…not exactly. Because time had passed, the winds had changed and it began to become apparent that the Jets would be departing Winnipeg to head south to a place steeped in hockey tradition….Phoenix, Arizona. All of the love the people of Winnipeg could muster wasn’t enough to keep the Jets from turning into Coyotes when the moon became full. A funeral was held at the arena in Winnipeg (I’m not making this up) and a very long cold winter set in.
Now let’s fast forward some years and a couple thousand miles East of Phoenix. Back to Atlanta….where the city’s growth had given it a prominent place on the national landscape. Perhaps the time was yet again right for NHL hockey in the ATL…and so; the Thrashers were born. They had a new arena, an excited fan base and a city teeming with 5 million people…the sky was the limit. But only if the sky was obscured by a low cloud cover and a layer of smog.
Eleven years went by and the boys in blue could muster only one playoff berth…where they were summarily dismissed in a four game sweep. Also during that time they removed a coach who was so inept that they had to promote him to the front office (again; I’m not making this up) and lost their star player (one of the best in the NHL no less) to free agency despite offering him the maximum amount of money allowed by the league. And then; one day it was over. Through teary eyes vaguely reminiscent of a crocodile, the team ownership declared that yet again Atlanta would be without hockey. The Thrashers were to be sold and relocated. To add insult to injury, despite the antics and infighting that the ownership group had become known for, they even dared to insinuate that the fan support might have been part of the reason. Couldn’t have been the product, could it?
So as our saga comes to a close (at least for now), the moving trucks are loaded, the ice has melted and the Zamboni sits in the dark shadows of the arena. Next season the Thrashers will lace up their skates in a new home. A place sure to be able to support the NHL for the long haul…a proven winner.
Or not. Good luck with it Winnipeg. Hope it goes better than last time. Let’s talk in a decade or so….
Maybe by then Albuquerque will be looking for a team…or you could just send them back to Atlanta. Clearly stranger things have happened…