Above all, we love the game. For its speed, for its precision, for its grace, for its grit, for its passion, for its power to bring out the best in player and fan alike.
We have now lost two NHL franchises, both equally devastating experiences. As fans, many of us recently went to extraordinary lengths to support the Thrashers. In both instances, the ownership group of the Atlanta NHL franchise abandoned the fans; the fans did not abandon the franchise.
Hockey is about family. As such, we register the impact that the Thrashers departure will have on the youth game, on amateur play, on the late night shinny games that occur daily across the Metropolitan area. Losing our team doesn't only affect us at Philips Arena; it hurts us in our homes.
Because hockey is about family, our memories, our history, our identity going forward is about the many players who graced the ice in Atlanta. From the Knights to the Gladiators, the Flames to the Thrashers, hockey is our strength, and when we rebuild, and we will rebuild, we will remember ALL the hockey family that have brought this great game to Atlanta.
We give thanks for the many people who we have come to know as part of our hockey family. From fellow Season Ticket holders to parking lot cashiers to beer salesmen, what a great team we were becoming. For those who lose their jobs in this relocation, your sense of loss is much more material than the fans. Mayor Reed and Atlanta local government did nothing to keep a NHL franchise in Atlanta. Nothing.
We hold no ill will against Winnipeg. They surely know the pain of losing a franchise, now they know the taste of getting one back. We only wish it wasn't our team.
Now that they are gone, we hope that Winnipeg, their new ownership group, the NHL, and the fans all reflect on what a team brings to a community-- the possibility of being greater than oneself both on and off the ice. The Atlanta Spirit Group never believed in this franchise, in this community, or in the game itself. Good riddance.
The game goes on. The puck drops. It's hockey night tonight. That won't happen in Atlanta next season because of the actions of this ownership group. Fans everywhere, heed the lesson of this city, and don't let your voices be intimidated, silenced, by the arrogance of those who own the game. Many of the owners, like Ted Leonsis, have never forgot what it is to be a fan. The Atlanta Spirit never even cared to know. Be vigilant which model your ownership group belongs to, because you never know when our predicament might suddenly become yours.
Finally, we were no Leaf Nation, no storied and historied franchise like Les Habitants, but we loved this team and we love this game. There is no hockey without the rapt attention (and ticket fare) of the paying fan, and the League would be wise to remember the interest of the fans. The sound of silence emanating from New York and Toronto for the last few months is not the sound of fan advocacy. The NHL is better without the Atlanta Spirit Group, hockey is better without the Atlanta Spirit Group, dare I say it, the fans are better without the Atlanta Spirit Group, but did the fans have to lose so completely in this cascade of events? Surely Mssrs. Bettman and Daly saw this one coming a mile off, if the fans didn't.
Like the Phoenix that rises from the ashes, we, as fans, will work to bring an NHL team back to Atlanta, yes, for a third time, but not because the third time is the charm. No, it will be because NHL hockey belongs in Atlanta. For real. For good. For the fans. Hockey lives in Atlanta.