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Business Types React To The Loss Of The Thrashers

from Leon Stafford and Dan Chapman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution,

Kennesaw State University associate professor and sports economist J.C. Bradbury said the decision wasn’t a shock, given the circumstances.

“Hockey is a northern sport,” he said. “It’s hot down there. I don’t think anyone is surprised hockey had trouble, especially because the team has not been great and the ownership situation is not popular with fans.”

City hospitality and business leaders tried to keep a stiff upper lip over the loss….

Greg Rancone, director of marketing for Legacy Property Group, said fans packed the company’s restaurants—Stats, Der Biergarten and Max’s Coal Oven Pizzeria.

“Hockey fans are very loyal and very consistent,” he said. “We would see the same faces over and over again. And that was over 40 [home] games. That’s pretty formidable.”

Atlanta is losing the Thrashers to a Canadian province that is home to 1.2 million people, or just one-fourth the population of metro Atlanta. Winnipeg, the Cree Indian word for “muddy waters,” boasted an unemployment rate of 5.4 percent in 2010.

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Filed in: NHL Teams, Atlanta Thrashers, Winnipeg Jets, | KK Hockey | Permalink
 

Comments

UMFan's avatar

Atlanta is a good college sports city, crappy pro sports city. The majority of the south eastern US is that way, despite all the transplants. Its an iteresting dynamic between the pro oriented north east and the college oriented south. Why it turned out that way I haven’t a clue.

Also, a note to economists and marketing types, transplants almost always stay loyal to their home team. I’m sorry, we transplant fans don’t switch teams just because we switched states. The real reason Atlanta doesn’t have a hockey team is simple: one playoff series. With all the high draft pics they had, its astonishing that they only played four playoff games.

Posted by UMFan from Denver, Colorado on 07/08/11 at 04:01 AM ET

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The real reason Atlanta doesn’t have a hockey team is simple: one playoff series. With all the high draft pics they had, its astonishing that they only played four playoff games.

Couldn’t agree with you more.  What killed hockey in Atlanta was the completely incompetent way that the organization was run, virtually from day 1.  They had more than enough opportunities to add high level talent to the organization but they never were able to find the right players.  If you want a good laugh look back through the Thrashers 1st round draft picks and see who they picked and who they missed.  It’s astonishing they didn’t get more quality players just by dumb luck.  On the few occasions in which they did land a stud (Kovalchuk and Heatley) they were eventually traded for pennies on the dollar.  Yes they traded Heatley for Hossa, but they got nothing for Hossa when they traded him.

You can obviously blame the GM and the scouting department, but it really starts at the ownership level.  If there’s anything that the NHL can learn from its second go around it’s that a board of owners does not work.  At all.  It’s fine to have minority investors but the buck has to stop somewhere or the organization is a complete mess, and that’s how it went down in Atlanta.  Infighting within the ownership group must have had an impact on the scouting and development budget, which is the foundation of any good team.  It’s really part of a trend we’ve seen over the last 10 years or so where the NHL is willing (maybe forced) to accept owners who really can’t afford to own an NHL team and run it the right way.  And all the while there’s a billionaire or two (Balsillie, Cuban) they won’t let join the club.

The Thrashers never really had a chance.  Any expansion team, especially in a non-traditional market, has to make the playoffs in the first 3-4 years and almost has to win a playoff series in the first 5-6.  If the NHL is never able to show off the very best product they have to offer how do they expect to win fans over who didn’t grow up with the sport?  Success on the ice, coupled with an aggressive effort to grow hockey at a youth and rec level, is how you build a base of support over time. 

For all the talk about how bad the fanbase was in Atlanta I think they actually deserve a lot of praise given how many stuck with that team despite experiencing a decade of ineptitude and incompetence.  They deserve a lot better than what they got from their owners and from the NHL.

Posted by RoneFace on 07/08/11 at 05:51 AM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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