Tuesday, May 31, 2011

WTF Exactly Happened In Atlanta?

Well it’s official. My beloved team is gone. Words can’t express how destroyed I am. I posted this on my own blog, but thought some that might be familiar with the whole cluster might enjoy reading.

How did the Thrashers come to be in Atlanta.
On June 25, 1997 the NHL awarded the City of Atlanta an expansion franchise to begin play in 1999-2000. On February 16, 1998 "Atlanta Thrashers" was announced as official team name. The team was named after the State Bird of Georgia, the Brown Thrasher. On October. 2, 1999 the Thrashers opened their 1999-2000 Inaugural Season before a sold-out crowd of 18, 545 at Philips Arena with a 4-1 loss to New Jersey.

Who owned Atlanta?
Former AOL Time Warner Vice Chairman and Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., founder, "Ted" Turner, owned the team. Who wouldn't want to get your product going with Ted Turner in one of the largest media markets in the country? On March 31, 2004 announcement of the sale of the Thrashers, along with the NBA’s Hawks and operating rights to Philips Arena, to Atlanta Spirit, LLC from Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. The eight partners who comprise the group are Steve Belkin, Michael Gearon, Jr., Bruce Levenson, Ed Peskowitz, J. Rutherford Seydel, Todd Foreman, J. Michael Gearon, Sr., Bud Seretean, and Beau Turner. These nine businessmen are divided into three groups, each headquartered in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Boston, and each group shares equal voting power within the group.
Although Ted Turner is not a part of this group, there are many connections to him: Beau Turner is the youngest son of Ted Turner. J. Rutherford Seydel is a son-in-law of Ted Turner. Michael Gearon Sr. was the general manager 1977–79), president (1977–1986) and chairman of the board (1986–2004) of the Atlanta Hawks under Turner's ownership. Bud Seretean is also a former president and general manager of the Hawks (1975–77) and a former board member of Turner Broadcasting System.

How did they run them?
Almost immediately they began bickering and fighting amongst themselves. Come on, 9 people can't order pizza, let alone run a company. This is the biggest bunch of whiney, entitled, litigious bunch of assholes around. The first big fight started with on the Hawks side of things. In the summer of 2005, the Atlanta Hawks traded with the Phoenix Suns to obtain shooting guard Joe Johnson for Boris Diaw and two protected future first-round picks. While this trade met with the approval of the majority of the ownership group, Steve Belkin, who held a controlling vote as the Hawks Governor within the group, rejected it. So they tried to kick Belkin out which resulted in a multi-year court battle. The Spirit has always been accused of caring more about basketball than hockey. While the owners were busy fighting over toys like toddlers, they were also lying to fans. We were assured that the owners did not want to sell the Thrashers. We were told the Thrashers were staying put. It was only revealed to fans through legal documents that the Spirit wanted to sell. After five years of legal battles, on December 23, 2010, the group led by Gearon and Levenson announced they had bought out Belkin's ownership share in Atlanta Spirit. Two months later Michael Gearon held the infamous interview were he spoke of a “sense of urgency” regarding investors for the Thrashers.
Once that lawsuit was done, the Spirit decided they really missed being in litigation and decided to sue their attorneys for malpractice to the tune of $200M. They claimed that the contract written by King & Spalding LLP, was flawed and prevented the sale" of the Thrashers for six years. Atlanta Spirit contends the contract drafted in August '05 for the buyout of Belkin, made the ownership group "unable to sell or otherwise dispose of" the Thrashers, which it first aimed to do after the '04-05 NHL lockout. The lawsuit claims that King & Spalding's contract "caused the buyout process to 'quickly break down into chaos,
So basically, these douchebags got the team from Papa Ted in 2004, planned to sell it a year later, then started fighting and couldn’t. They lied to the fans the whole time. They ran a bare bones ship and not investing any money in the team, yet want to blame the fans.
Some descriptions of the Spirit:

AJC Blogger Bill Tiller:
" Atlanta fans should not be "terribly shocked to learn that one of … if not THE … most dysfunctional collection of businessmen ever to own a sports franchise actually dared to speak untruths to their paying population."

AJC writer Jeff Schultz:
They told you they cared. They lied. ... They told you not to pay attention to any of those rumors of the Thrashers being for sale, although they eventually admitted begrudgingly that, yes, they were looking for 'investors.' They lied." Now the owners "can't figure out how they’ve burned so many bridges in this town why fans still feel too angry or worn down to show up for a pretty decent team." Schultz: "If Atlanta loses its second NHL franchise, it won’t be because the sport failed here. It will be because ownership and management failed"

If there isn't enough fan support in Atlanta, why should a team stay there?
Atlanta as a sports town sucks. We are a transplant city, nobody is “from” here. We also have a ton of choices on where to spend our disposable income. You have your hard core hockey fans, like me, but most are fair weather fans. To get those fair weather fans in, you have to win. It’s been established that the Spirit did nothing to put a winning team on the ice. They did no marketing. They did nothing to bring in new fans and did all they could to burn bridges and piss off old fans. We’ve averaged roughly between 13K and 15K. With the shit that the Spirit put on the ice, I’m surprised we had THAT many people show up. If you are going to have 13K hard core people show up through thick and thin, imagine what we could get there if we had an ownership that cared about us as much as they did the basketball team…an ownership that wasn’t trying to cut corners. I don’t have to imagine, I was at the playoff games. I remember. I remember the fans, the noise, the support. It was awesome. It could have been again.

The Spirit have been trying to sell the team for years.
Because of the litigation, that is impossible. They might have WANTED to sell the team, but in reality it was a legal impossibility for them to be trying to sell. So, that means they were looking for buyers for a whopping 3 months.

They Spirit is trying to find local investors, but nobody wants to buy the Thrashers.
Bullshit. Nobody wants to deal with the Spirit. We have had our share of kooks and rumors. The Balkan, Lil John, Stephen Rollins all turned out to be disappointments. There were several buyers who were legit. Unfortunately they wanted to purchase all three (Hawks, Thrashers and Phillips Arena). The Spirit were not interested. The Atlanta Spirit does not want hockey in the arena. They were not interested in selling just the Thrasher to a local buyer. Even if they were, who wants to deal with the Spirit when it comes to leases?

Why isn't Gary Bettman and the League fighting as hard for Atlanta as they did Pheonix?

That’s the magic question. Gary Bettman has been asked by the media as well as fans on his call-in radio show on XM “Are we going to see the same aggressive fight to keep hockey in Atlanta that we saw in Phoenix.” Gary dances around the issue by talking about how it’s different in Phoenix because they own them. They have a bigger presence because they own the team and need to be in on the day to day running of the team. No shit, Gary. We get that. What we want to know is whether or not you would go to the extremes for us that you did for Phoenix. We have our answer. Bettman didn't "fight hard" to stay in Atlanta, that is HORSE SHIT.

Who is the True north and why do they want the team?
True North Sports and Entertainment own the AHL’s Manitoba Moose and operate the MTS Centre. The MTS Centre is where the Manitoba Moose play and where our Thrashers, with their new name, will play next season. Why do they want the team? Because they are fucking Canada! I don’t blame them for wanting it one bit. Winnipeg has been NHL hungry for years since the league took the Jets. Not only will investing in an NHL team be a sound financial decision for the TNSE, but they will be heroes! TSNE were originally circling around Phoenix, but when the city of Glendale voted to give the NHL $25M to secure the Coyotes for another in which to find owners, TSNE turned it’s attention to us.

Congratulations to Winnipeg, I know you’ve been dying for an NHL team since the Jets left. I know you will take good care of my boys. I don’t fault the city or TNSE at all. I lay the blame squarely where it belongs, at the feet of the Atlanta Spirit LLC and Gary Bettman. Taking a team (for the second time) from the 8th largest media market and putting it in Winnipeg does not GROW the sport. People in the Peg already know how awesome hockey is. The sport was growing here. More rinks were going up, more kids were playing hockey. I honestly don’t know how that will continue with the Thrashers gone.

I also don't know how my blog will continue. I have a photoblog, therefore need to take pictures. I might convert it to a Predators blog as I will be trying to attend as many of those games as possible.

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