Thinking of the Thrashers
By Bryan Thiel
The Atlanta Thrashers are on the move. The NHL fought tooth and nail to keep a team in Phoenix, but without so much as a whimper, the birds if the South are migrating North.
People are so enamored with Canada’s seventh franchise and wondering what the jerseys will look like, whether they’ll open their first season at home or on the road, or what the team will be named, that they lose sight of the human element in all of this.
Not many would like to acknowledge it, but there’s a dedicated group of people in Atlanta who feel the exact same way Winnipeggers did in 1996. There will be a city next year without an NHL team that had one a year earlier.
There will be people without jobs.
But no one ever thinks of that do they?
Player-wise, when it was the Phoenix Coyotes moving back to Winnipeg, people asked whether or not certain players (namely free agent-to-be Ilya Bryzgalov) would have any interest in the ‘Peg, and a report surfaced that long-time Coyote (and former Jet) Shane Doan would be provided with an opportunity to examine other cities to play in if he had no interest in moving.
Then there’s the question of the front office and coaching staff, and if the new owners will want to renew the contracts of those with expiring deals or not.
Beyond the on-ice product, who thinks of the Business Operations people? Some may have the chance to follow their employer, but not all will be afforded that luxury, nor will all of them want to uproot their families and change cities.
Of course there's the arena and facilities staff who earn minimum wage or slightly better. While tthere's still the NBA's Atlanta Hawks, the hours these people work will be cut since there isn't a second tenant in their building.
And it still goes deeper.
The Manitoba Moose have made their way to St. John’s Newfoundland thanks to a big-league client taking up their space and the Chicago Wolves aren’t guaranteed to be the AHL affiliate of this new franchise. In other words any moves in terms of prospects get put on hold until things get figured out.
With a normal team or in a normal situation, young men would be enjoying the perks of signing their first big-league contract and looking forward to a big-league camp. Now? Players and management have to wait. Will there be enough room to sign that teenage defenseman and get him some time in the pro ranks, or would he just sit in the press box? Is that hopeful 30-goal forward going to get top-six minutes in the AHL, bottom-six minutes, or is he destined to head back to his league and wait things out again.
While these aren’t ground-breaking thoughts, they’re things that people have chosen to ignore or may not even realize. Sure it’s a happy time for some, it’s a sad, mysterious, and even a scary time for others.
This isn’t to take any enjoyment from the people who have rejoiced at finally getting a team to cheer for, but to help them realize that their joy came at the expense of the happiness of many others.
Please don’t let that go unappreciated.