It’s official – the Atlanta Thrashers are moving to Winnipeg. The people of Manitoba are happy campers today, while the people of Atlanta…well, I doubt the vast majority of them care all that much. The bottom line here is that the NHL failed miserably in Atlanta (for the second time!) and is returning to the proverbial mother country and a city it left just 15 years ago. This is the league’s first relocation since 1997-98 when the Hartford Whalers moved south to Carolina.
There’s no doubt Winnipeg will welcome the NHL with glee, and the team will sell out every single home game for the foreseeable future. One quick question, however. What will the team be called? If saner minds prevail, they’ll rename it the Jets. It makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is that the league will apparently hold off on realignment for the time being, meaning Winnipeg will actually stay in the Southeast Division with Washington, Tampa, Carolina and Florida. What a travel schedule.
My take on this whole situation is simple: The NHL clearly wasn’t working in Atlanta, and Canada deserves another franchise. I’ll admit I’m a bit worried, though. If the team doesn’t produce desirable on-ice results, that fresh, new team smell may wear off sooner rather than later. But at least there’s optimism. Can a new, rabid fan base make an immediate impact on a team that went 34-36-12 this season? Can a hockey-mad city attract quality free agents? We’ll see. Will anyone outside of Thrashers season-ticket holders miss Atlanta? I doubt it.