For the past couple of years, the NHL relocation to Winnipeg idea has gained a lot of steam. I’ve been rooting for the people of Winnipeg to get a team again, and I’m happy to see that it has finally happened. There is no doubt that any league is better when it has teams in places that care about the league, and the people of Winnipeg certainly care about the league more than the people of Atlanta. No offense to any Thrashers fans, I’m simply speaking in generalities that are based on statistics. Statistically, hockey didn’t work in Atlanta. It is probably true that hockey could have worked in Atlanta given an ownership group that knew what it was doing, but that certainly was not the situation that we had here in reality.
The only thing I don’t like about this move is the way it was handled publicly by the league. Atlanta fans were begging commissioner Gary Bettman to give it to them straight, but like he has done for years now, Bettman insisted that no team was relocating. He then fell silent on the issue while the deal was being put together between the buyers and sellers. To me, there’s no reason the commissioner couldn’t have just acknowledged that a deal is in the works, and given the Atlanta fans the a portion of the truth. I’m not saying that negotiations should be made public, but to deny that any deal was in the works only insulted the intelligence of Thrasher fans, who knew as well as anyone that their team was the one that True North turned its attention to once it was decided that the Coyotes would be allowed to lose many more millions next year from the comfort of their home in Phoenix. Atlanta fans feel like they’ve been stabbed in the back, and really, they should feel that way. I’m not saying they did enough to keep the team around, but they deserved some honesty throughout the process, and they did not receive that at any point during this saga.
The thing that should scare other fans is that if this is how Bettman handles relocation situations, then there’s no guaranteeing that your team won’t be next. After all, there is no question available to ask that will elicit a candid response that attempts to confirm that there is even a possibility that your team is moving. So while you may be able to see it coming via outside media reports, you will never get the commissioner’s office to tell you, straight up, that your team’s future in your city is in trouble. Don’t worry Florida Panthers, there’s no way you’re moving. It doesn’t matter how many people show up to the games, your team’s future is right where it’s at. We have no plans to relocate any of our franchises. Oh, what’s that? The deal’s done? Alright, cool… Congratulations new city, you are getting that team you’ve been begging for! Isn’t that great? Yay, I’m so glad I could facilitate this transaction in which everybody’s a winner.
The outcome is nice, and I look forward to making a trek up to Winnipeg sometime soon, but the way in which it was handled left something to be desired. With that said, tonight is the start of the Stanley Cup Finals, and that is what hockey fans should have at the forefront of our minds.