With the sale of my professional sports teams all but finalized (the pending Board of Governors meeting will be a rubber stamp), I wanted to post something I wrote on a friend’s facebook wall that really sums things up for me. This was in response to another friend highlighting the Canadian press talking points regarding the move, citing lacking Atlanta ticket sales and Canadian hockey pride (and in fairness, she lives in Toronto). As such, my response:
What gets me is that the Canadian press believes that Winnipeg is more deserving of a team than Atlanta (as if we’re second-class fans). I understand how happy the Winnipeggers are and how hurt they were to lose the Jets to Phoenix. I’m all for Winnipeg having a team, just not at the expense of losing MY team (two wrongs didn’t make a right).
The Thrashers were sold because the ownership didn’t care or invest enough in the team to make it work. The owners spent close to the league minimum most years, the team finished last or next to last over half the time, and they never won a playoff game in 10 seasons in a league where more than half the teams make the playoffs! How can you expect a city who doesn’t understand hockey to embrace a team that isn’t very good? I place full blame on the owners.
It’s not about being in a non-traditional market, it’s about having owners who are committed to winning and building a fan base. Raleigh and Tampa are two great examples of that, and they both own Stanley Cups.
Winnipeg beware though. For all the talk of poorly attended Thrashers’ games, the MTS Centre’s capacity is a paltry 1,500 more than the Thrashers’ average attendance this past year. Even at 100% capacity, Winnipeg would have ranked 24th of 30 in league attendance. I hope the depth of Winnipeg’s love for hockey matches the depth of True North’s pocketbook. Otherwise, I predict a second ‘Jet’tison in about 10 years.