Canucks and Beyond

From Atlanta to Winnipeg, It's Hockey Fans Who are Getting the Shaft

05/14/2011 at 12:37am EDT

Sportsnet.ca profiles the past of Winnipeg Jets and the future of NHL hockey in the city. Video:

Hockey in Winnipeg is near and dear to the residents of that city, many of whom passionately believe they can support a new NHL team. Whether it happens or not, however, is a total mystery, given the astonishing amount of misinformation and seemingly worthless “sources” informing the likes of TSN and some of the Winnipeg media. And it’s been going on for years now.

All of this makes me think of fans in Atlanta, though. [insert joke here]. But seriously, they do exist, and the Canadian media’s focus having shifted from Arizona to Georgia has them wondering what’s happening next in their own market.

The Post-Pessimist is one such fan. A friend who is long suffering on a lot of hockey fronts these days, he’s had a particularly hard year watching his Avs die a painful death… and now he’s got to wonder what his current hometown Atlanta is up to every other day. But he’s an optimistic-Pessimist:

A friend recently asked if I was worried about the various rumors about the Thrashers leaving Atlanta. I said no—first off, after that shitshow of a season (Thrashers tank, Avalanche do so much worse that scientists are working on new forms of the word “tank”), hockey ranks around tractor pulls and snuff films on the list of things I want to watch. We’re still cool, me and hockey, but I’m seeing other sports for a bit.

Down the line, I’ll get over it and want to watch hockey again. But I’m still not worried. All the stories about their problems (or those of the Coyotes, which seemed much more fraught) are—to be generous—rather thinly sourced, and generally pushed the most by outlets (I’m looking at you, Winnipeg Free Press and TSN) that have some interest in keeping this story alive. It’s hard to believe that after bending over backwards to help out the Penguins, Predators, and Coyotes, Gary Bettman et al will wave dismissively as a team in one of the ten biggest U.S. metropolitan areas heads north. I’m no big fan of the “open letter” form of writing, but this post (via Puck Daddy) does a nice job of laying out the reasons why the NHL has some interest in keeping a team in Atlanta.

Feel free to throw all that back in my face if the ECHL is my only local option next year. But if I’m right—and I usually am—the Thrashers will still be here next season, and the Winnipeggers will be feverishly grasping on to rumors about the Islanders or Blue Jackets.

The NHL is responsible for plenty of this uncertainty, given their lukewarm manner of defending Atlanta’s future, but much of the blame probably rests with the hockey media—particularly the Canadian hockey media—itself.

The lure of writing “NHL to Winnipeg!” stories often seems to override the standards they apply to other hockey matters. TSN, for example, has been particularly virulent in their coverage, switching their focus from Phoenix-to-Winnipeg over to Atlanta-to-Winnipeg, even before the city’s votes were cast in Arizona the other day which guaranteed the dogs another year in the desert.

Maybe Atlanta will indeed be shipped north—certainly, they’re having a lot of problems. But maybe not.

But whatever the future, the worst part is how poorly hockey fans are being served by those providing the coverage of the matter.

Here’s hoping some responsible and knowledgeable voices eventually rise above all the ‘noise’ and focus on telling the truth of what they know, rather than just looking to sell their “schtick,” which has left hockey fans everywhere more confused than ever.

Both Winnipeg and Atlanta fans deserve a bit more “journalism,” and a lot less “national enquirer.”

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