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An Open Letter to the NHL

Somewhere a village is missing its idiot – NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. I think I can speak for all Atlanta residents when I beg said village to please, for the love of all things holy, take back its rightful idiot. Here in Atlanta, we already have our own idiots in the form of Atlanta Spirit Group owners and manager Michael Gearon, Bruce Levenson, Don Waddell and the rest of their cronies. Because we already are laden down with idiots here in Atlanta, we really don’t have the resources to adopt your idiot too.

It seems that there is a major misconception swirling around that Atlanta isn’t a hockey town. This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard since last month when a random woman told me that cheerleading is a cause of rape. She’s an ignorant fool and so is anyone who let’s slip the sentiment that Atlanta isn’t a hockey town.

Even with poor management (who spent way more time suing each other than running the team) and a losing franchise, Blueland has enjoyed an average of 14,000 attendance over the years. That’s more than many Original 6 teams and only 1,000 seats short of what the new Winnipeg arena even holds. Our two playoff appearances played to sold out crowds with thousands more taking to the streets surrounding the arena. This is what a winning team could enjoy in Atlanta!

There are more than 5 million people living in Atlanta and just over 600,000 in Winnipeg. We only need 10 percent of our population to be hockey fans to have more fans than the entire population of Winnipeg – Thank you JR Francis for that nugget of truth! (As a side note, I’m sure Winnipeg is a nice place and deserves a team, but why don’t you take back your rightful Jets next year when the city of Phoenix is finished pouring in cash to the team rather than taking our Thrashers). Add in the fact that Atlanta is one of the fastest growing youth hockey markets in the country and it’s pretty easy to see that Atlanta is, in fact, a hockey town. Just because we call it Hotlanta doesn’t mean we don’t hide indoors in the 100 degree summer heat people!

Even given those truths, Bettman has been curiously absent from Atlanta. Believe me, we Atlanta hockey fans know how miserable the ASG is to deal with, but what a far cry from Bettman’s involvement in Phoenix with the Coyotes or his sudden appearance yesterday in Winnipeg. It’s truly shameful, and the NHL Board of Governors should be well and truly embarrassed should they choose to side with such a poor example of franchise owners and such a disingenuous NHL figurehead. We know the BOG has lost its collective ass bailing out the Coyotes but please don’t recoup your losses off the back of our Thrashers! Look at the long-term consequences of moving the team to Winnipeg rather than the short-term relocation fee.

As a native Atlantan and lifelong hockey fan, one who grew up watching the Flames from second row season tickets until they were ripped away to Calgary, the idea that we may be about to lose a second NHL franchise in my lifetime is just too much to take. If the BOG votes to move the Thrashers to Winnepeg without insisting upon a real search for local investors, the NHL has lost a fan forever. I will never watch another game or support another franchise again, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Do the right thing BOG – uphold the integrity of the sport, as you’re called to do by the bylaws, and ensure the Atlanta Spirit Group takes the necessary time (more than 5 months) to research viable local buyers. And while we’re at it, do the right thing Atlanta leadership – keeping the team here is going to take more than lip service, so why don’t you stop being standard politicians and actually do something that might attract some local buyers. If you don’t, the economic fallout for the city is bound to be much more far reaching than you may expect.

If you’re a Thrashers fan, or even an NHL fan anywhere in the world, who believes the BOG should give hockey in Atlanta a real chance to find knowledgable, caring owners, you can sign a petition by clicking here.

For more debunking of Atlanta hockey misconceptions, there’s a great video at Keep the Thrashers. Also, feel free to comment on this blog entry with your pro Thrashers thoughts.

And, lastly, may I suggest a full boycott of the Hawks until the ASG sells them to a new buyer? I don’t think the city of Atlanta and its residents should put another dime in the pockets of this ironically named ownership group.

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