The recent relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg is one that, in my opinion, was necessary for the National Hockey League to make. I feel for Thrashers fans, I really do, but the franchise was doomed from almost the moment the city was granted the rights to a team in 1997.
Of the four markets (Atlanta, Nashville, Columbus, Minnesota) that were awarded an NHL franchise Atlanta was perhaps the riskiest. The city had already lost the Atlanta Flames to Calgary in 1980. There was little evidence to suggest that another hockey team would survive in a non-traditional market. While Minnesota did lose the North Stars to Dallas in 1993, Minnesota is a hockey hot-bed that deserved an NHL team.
Not only were the motivations for a team in Atlanta questionable, but the team did not do itself any favors in the years to come. Of its 11 years of existence, the franchise only made the playoffs once. And once they got there, they didn’t even manage to win a single game. It is no wonder that superstar left-winger Ilya Kovalchuk wanted out prior to the 2009-2010 season.
The Atlanta Spirit Group, LLC, who owned the Thrashers for the majority of its time in Atlanta, never appeared to be truly care about the success of the team. They surely could have tried to sign a big name free agent in order to keep Kovalchuk interested in staying but did not. It appeared that the group hoped to turn its fortunes around with the hiring of Rick Dudley as general manager and Craig Ramsay as coach prior to the 2010-2011 season, but by then it was too late.
The argument has been made that Winnipeg has already blown its chance at having a successful professional hockey team. If one team has already been forced out due to financial issues why would a second one succeed?
Good ownership is key to a successful franchise and I believe that True North is just that. They managed to generate an immense amount of hype for the team before tickets even went on sale. And, when they did, season tickets sold out in minutes. Bringing back the Jets name was a great move too, as it brought back the nostalgia surrounding the old Jets team.
Since the NHL will have to realign divisions to accommodate this move, it has been discussed that the Blue Jackets would be the team to move over to the Eastern Conference. The Jackets playing in the Eastern Conference would make traveling much easier on the team (fewer West Coast trips) and hopefully make them more successful in the long run. Having a better Jackets squad would be great for the city of Columbus.
True North, to me, is making all of the right moves and has me believing that the NHL has made the right decision in giving the die-hard hockey fans of Winnipeg a second chance.