Funeral for a Friend: An Ode to the Atlanta Thrashers


Nick Schwarzmann

A Thrashers fan wearing a Thrashers hat.

Nick Schwarzmann, Staff Writer

With the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, hockey fans around the United States of America and Canada are gearing up and rearing to go as their favorite teams bear down in the hunt for sport’s greatest trophy, Lord Stanley of Preston’s Cup. Hockey fever is heating up in places all over the map, as down south as Anaheim, California, and as far north as Edmonton, Alberta. Alas, there is no such heat radiating from the Peach State, and there has not been for the past six years. There has been a void in my heart and in the Atlanta sports scene ever since the Thrashers were relocated to Winnipeg and became the Jets. Winters have been colder, nights have been longer, and sugar hasn’t been as sweet.

On the ice, the Thrashers were never a very successful club. They only qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs once, in 2006-07, when the team won the Southeast Division. In total Thrashers style, they got swept in four games to the New York Rangers. That didn’t diminish the fact that the team named after the state bird of Georgia was soaring to new heights. Unfortunately, the Thrashers would not again reach the playoffs in their tenure at the Philips Arena, but that was not an issue for the hockey fans in Atlanta; the Thrashers never posted amazing attendance numbers, but they did consistently post better numbers of established franchises and teams that are currently contenders, including the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Islanders, the Anaheim Ducks, the Washington Capitals, the Nashville Predators, the Boston Bruins, and the Chicago Blackhawks. Those teams were all struggling at the time, and now post much better attendance numbers due to their success, which proves that the main issue with the Thrashers attendance, which was never the worst in the league, was more with the product on the ice than it was with the fans in the stands. If the Thrashers had competent ownership that wisely spent money and created a consistent contender, Philips Arena would have been filled nicely every night. To quote the classic film Field of Dreams, “if you build it, he will come.” In eleven out of twelve seasons, the Thrashers posted better attendance numbers than the Phoenix, now Arizona, Coyotes, who have since gone bankrupt and are now owned by the National Hockey League, yet the six fans in the desert get to watch professional hockey while those of us in the Peach State have to settle for either the ECHL or clinging onto another NHL team with less emotional significance.

If you speak to anybody who ever went to a Thrashers game, they would rave about their experience there, and that is because hockey is not only an awesome sport, but also a nice change of pace from the sweltering hot, outdoor sports people normally experience down here. Hockey rinks are cold, the game is fast and hard-hitting, and the atmosphere is electric. If you can watch the Thrasher head hanging from the roof of the arena shoot fire after a goal and not get pumped, then I truly feel sorry for you, for you have no soul.

Hockey is arguably the best sport of all the sports, and the feeling of not having a team to root for during the most thrilling part of the season is excruciating at times. Granted, I haven’t had the worst of it; since the Atlanta Spirit ownership group crushed our spirits and the True North Sports and Entertainment group abandoned us for good, I’ve adopted my mother’s team, the Chicago Blackhawks, and since then, they have won two Stanley Cup, but I still wear my Thrashers hat with pride. The feeling of your team winning the cup is certainly amazing, but every time the Hawks hoist the trophy, I like to imagine that it’s actually the Thrashers.