Monday, May 16, 2011

Thanks for playing, Atlanta

And you think it's lonely as a CBJ fan?

A couple quick thoughts as the winds of realignment change start blowing in earnest around the National Hockey League with the news that the Atlanta Spirit ownership group has started negotiating to sell the Atlanta Thrashers to the True North group of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

First, I think it's safe to assume that if True North buys the Thrashers, they'll be moving to Winnipeg.  This could result in a small realignment scenario where the new Winnipeg franchise would play in the Western Conference, effectively "bumping" a more easterly Western Conference team over to the East.  Logical choices are Columbus, Detroit or Nashville.  There's plenty of room to debate which team should make the jump, both for the good of the team in question and for the interests of both the West and the East.  I'll pass on playing that particular parlor game, but you are safe in presuming that I'd love to see the CBJ in the East.

What I find perhaps more interesting is the lack of enthusiasm over keeping the Thrashers in Atlanta.  Sure, former Braves pitcher and hockey buff Tom Glavine made his quasi-self intersted "for the good of the community" pitch over the Thrashers, but have you heard ANYONE else say anything remotely close to that recently?

More pertinently, why might that lack of outcry be?

I'll suggest that the people of Atlanta stopped caring a long, long time ago.

I've been doing some research on NHL home market TV ratings on local sports networks, and Atlanta is stunningly poor.  Take these numbers, culled from Puck The Media and Sports Business Daily, as proof:
  • 2007-08: .11 average rating, 3,000 average households
  • 2008-09: .20 average rating, 6,000 average households
  • 2009-10: .33 average rating, 8,000 average households
  • 2010-11: .23 average rating, 6,000 average households
TV ratings are painfully low in Atlanta, and dust is collecting on the seats.
That's right.  In America's 8th largest television market - with 2.4 million unique television households, the best the Thrashers could get was 8,000 households.  That, my friends, is the very definition of not giving a damn.

(No, I'm not going to delve too deeply into attendance figures because attendance reporting is only as accurate as any team wants it to be.  Those with low attendance might inflate their figures to try to qualify for NHL revenue sharing.  TV ratings and households, on the other hand, are measured and reported by third parties.  You can't fudge those numbers easily.  That being said, photos don't lie.)

The hometown folks don't care, and clearly haven't cared for years.  So I'm not going to wail and gnash my teeth over the death of NHL hockey in Atlanta for the second time.

In fact, I'd be happy to see them go...because the Blue Jackets would be a great addition to the Eastern Conference!

2 comments:

  1. As a Browns fan, it's hard for me to ever argue FOR relocation. That said, it's kind of apples-and-oranges.

    It also stands to reason that, since the NHL stands to make $60 million from TNE if they buy/relocate the Thrashers, the NHL isn't going to stand up and block the deal like they've done in Glendale in part to cover their own financial behinds.

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  2. Apples-oranges, indeed, DP! The Browns were one of the best supported team's in all of sports, with consistent sellouts, strong viewer numbers, and high merchandise sales. They weren't sold because of lack of support, they were moved by a greedy owner who was a better liar than businessman. I hate what the Atlanta situation does to their loyal fans, but it looks like the current owners are only interested in selling and don't care to whom. If they do move to Winnipeg, then I hope the jackets are the team to head to the East.

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