Kukla's Korner Hockey
From the CP via TSN:
Atlanta Thrashers captain Andrew Ladd is visiting what could be his new hockey home in Winnipeg.
The Thrashers are moving to the city but Ladd is set to become a restricted free agent July 1 and would need to strike a deal with the new owners of the team to join his teammates in the Manitoba capital.
That process hasn’t really started.
But the native of Maple Ridge, B.C., brought his agent and fiancee along for the trip and says he’s impressed with the vision and culture the team’s management wants to create.
From Tim Campbell at Winnipeg Free Press:
A front-runner has emerged to be the general manager of Winnipeg’s new NHL team.
Chicago Blackhawks assistant GM and senior director of hockey operations Kevin Cheveldayoff is hot on the radar of Canada’s seventh NHL franchise.
After a Thursday meeting with True North chairman Mark Chipman and hockey senior vice-president Craig Heisinger at the NHL’s scouting combine, current Atlanta Thrashers GM Rick Dudley does not appear to be a slam-dunk to move with the club to Winnipeg. Nobody at True North will talk about it and there are strong rumblings here that Dudley will either be re-assigned or dismissed, that True North wants to go in another direction with its own people.
From Lyle Richards at The Hockey News:
If True North Sports and Entertainment chairman Mark Chipman is willing to spend up to the cap ceiling, his team would have around $26 million to work with, but as Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette recently noted, Winnipeg fans shouldn’t get their hopes up for any big free-spending moves.
Chipman has stated his club’s philosophy will be to build through the draft and he’s also suggested his team’s payroll will stick close to the mid-way point, which will be roughly $52-$54 million.
Forget about the possibility of Brad Richards or other big-name unrestricted free agents signing with Winnipeg this summer.
That doesn’t mean Winnipeg won’t sign any UFAs, but it will likely look for affordable talent. The main focus will be re-signing its own key free agents.
read on plus odds and ends on the Leafs and Wings
The lesson here for my kids, all die-hard Thrashers fans including one 14-year-old hockey player, is that rich men can bend rules, twist words, sacrifice loyal followers and essentially do what they want — all in the name of profit and business. That is a horrible way to run a self-proclaimed “community asset” and a horribly cruel lesson thrust upon kids with jerseys, helmets, gloves, shirts and rooms covered in Thrashers and NHL logos.
-Brian H. Gedeon, an ardent Atlanta Thrashers supporter. More at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
from Craig Custance of The Sporting News,
But this move comes with collateral damage. For one, hockey fans in Atlanta are burned again—once by the Flames, now by the Thrashers. Those who invested their time and money and hearts in hockey are left wondering why the NHL didn’t fight for them like they have so many other hockey markets in the States.
There are also those who invested more than their fandom. They invested their careers, their livelihood.
For so many around the NHL, the Thrashers became a punch line. Without support from ownership, it was nearly impossible to build a consistent winner and the play on the ice proved it. Fans’ apathy reflected the annual slide in the standings.
Yet, there were still plenty of people who wore a Thrashers logo with pride. Guys like Inar Treiguts, a Latvian native who has been the Thrashers’ massage therapist since their first season. He’s a guy who always met the media with a huge smile and a greeting of “Hello, journalists!” before working the kink out of a player’s shoulder. What’s next for him?
Or a guy like Bobby Stewart, who served as an equipment manager on not one, but two Atlanta hockey teams.
Despite advice to wait and see what happens, the sale and move of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg sure had a sense of the inevitable about it, didn’t it?
There will be more euphoria about the return of hockey to Winnipeg than angst over its loss in Atlanta. Still, the loss of the Thrashers will hurt the team’s core fans for a long time to come. Sure, we can talk about the Thrashers being swept in their only playoff series, their inability to keep star players, and the Thrashers ranking near the NHL basement in attendance. Still, there was a core of fans who “Believed in Blueland” and now are left without a team. Think about them for a minute today and put yourself in their shoes for a minute. It’s a pretty crummy feeling to lose “your” team. Success or not, fans love their team, even if they love to complain about it. In the long run, it’s better to be a “long suffering” fan, than have no team at all.
And feel worse for the team’s staffers that lost their jobs. Most won’t make the move to Winnipeg and now enter an employment market that can best be described as “challenging” to say the least. They are the ones you really need some action, not words like these from the team’s statement.
“It’s extremely disappointing to all of us that (this sale) became necessary after all other options were exhausted. We want to express my gratitude to you, the fans, for the years of dedication you have offered to the Atlanta Thrashers.”
from Chris Johnston of the CP at The Score,
Moving to a hockey hotbed from one where the sport was rarely in the spotlight, the Thrashers are expecting a little bit of culture shock now that they’ve landed in Winnipeg.
“It’s probably going to be bigger than most guys think,” captain Andrew Ladd told The Canadian Press on Tuesday. “I think not having (NHL) hockey there for 15 years, it’s kind of built up and built up to the point where I’m sure (fans) are ready to blow the doors off the hinges and get this thing going.”
Added goaltender Chris Mason: “Next year it’s going to be hockey, hockey, hockey. I just love that. I think it’s going to be awesome.”
added 5:26pm, from Ian Mendes of Sportsnet,
If some Atlanta Thrashers players are reluctant to move to Winnipeg, Evander Kane certainly isn’t one of them.
The 19-year-old was happy to see a definitive resolution to the Thrashers saga, which officially came on Tuesday when the NHL announced the club was re-locating to Winnipeg.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity. Anywhere in Canada, I’d love to go play. Going to Winnipeg with the Jets, they have a good tradition and history there,” “Kane told Rogers Sportsnet on Tuesday. “I’m looking forward to renewing that and being a big part of it. I’m looking forward to that and getting this thing going.”
Former Atlanta Thrashers captain Bobby Holik talks to Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice about his experiences with the Thrashers organization, and his disappointment with today’s news. In the course of that interview, Holik also made some observations about how the salary cap era affects a team’s success:
Holik pointed to the Tampa Bay Lightning as an example of how getting a solid ownership (Jeff Vinik) and management team (headed by GM Steve Yzerman) working on the same page can turn around an organization quickly.
“Why do you think Tampa has done so well in such a short period of time?” Holik asked. “Two reasons: in the salary cap era, you’re never too far from being good and you’re never too far from being bad. It’s all condensed to the middle. There’s no great teams. They’re all just good or average.
“So, you get an owner who has full trust in the general manager, he hires the right hockey guy and you have a general manager who completely backs the head coach (Guy Boucher). Then, you have a coach who completely believes in his players and you go from not making the playoffs to one goal short of the (Stanley Cup) Finals. That’s the salary cap era. It’s not that hard to be good and it’s very easy to be bad because you’re never too far from each end of the spectrum.”
Full interview discussing the Thrashers is here.
from Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution,
This is how it ends: With the weasel of a commissioner not stepping foot in the city, with another season passing without a playoff game, with a lying ownership group maintaining it did all it could to save a franchise that in reality it spent most of seven years wrecking.
Atlanta has lost an NHL expansion team to a Canadian outpost for the second time. The Thrashers are going to Winnipeg just like the Flames went to Calgary in 1980.
True North Sports and Entertainment has called a news conference for Noon et/11am ct today where they are expected to address their negotiations with Atlanta Spirit Group on the sale and relocation of the Thrashers to Winnipeg.
added 8:39am, The NHL Network in the US and Canada will broadcast the news conference beginning at noon ET today.
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