By Stu Hackel
On Tuesday, we noted the unusual words of NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly regarding the future of the Thrashers in Atlanta. He essentially said that the franchise may have to be relocated. Thursday night on the Thrashers' telecast, team president Don Waddell told TV analyst and SI.com columnist Darren Eliot, “I can tell you, we’re not moving. We are committed to trying to make it work in Atlanta. We need the support of the fans, obviously, and if we continue with the product we have now, there’s been a lot of reasons over the years not to come watch the Thrashers. Now there’s no reasons any more....I can’t emphasize enough, our goal is to make it a strong hockey market in Atlanta. People have asked for a competitive team -- we’re very competitive right now. We’re out beating the drum. We need to get more people out there.”
So do the Dallas Stars. Their game featured a hot home team against the Washington Capitals and Alex Ovechkin, who is perhaps the game's marquee attraction. But less than 14,000 people showed up, about 4,500 below capacity. Tim Cowlishaw in The Dallas Morning News took the local fans to task for their apathy, especially because the Caps had played in St. Louis a night earlier and filled the arena.
"It's kind of embarrassing that St. Louis, a smaller city that certainly isn't any further ahead in the economic recovery than Dallas, could draw more than 19,000 for the Caps Wednesday night," Cowlishaw wrote. "If you're a Cowboy fan when things are going badly, you're reluctant to leave the house. The losing is felt everywhere. When the Stars falter, as they have the last two years, they simply disappear from the local radar. The media largely ignore the team and the casual fans stay away in droves."
The Stars have now won five in a row and are right behind the Red Wings, so perhaps the droves will begin to return if the winning continues.
No be-Leaf: Not that the Maple Leafs have trouble stirring fan passions, but a very good blog post (as usual) from Adam Proteau of The Hockey News looks at the potential sale of the Leafs to Rogers Communications. Proteau thinks a new regime is unlikely to end the Leafs' championship drought because it won't be able to spend more money due to salary cap restrictions and, more significantly, "corporations do not win Stanley Cup championships. Look at the teams that have won a Stanley Cup over the course of the past decade-and-a-half. All but two (the Colorado Avalanche in 1996 and the Rangers in 1994) were owned by a group of no more than one or two key people making decisions at the top....
"What the Leafs really need and what would catapult them into bona fide, consistent Cup contention, is a billionaire like Ottawa’s Eugene Melnyk, or Edmonton’s Darryl Katz signing all checks. They need an owner who sees his team as his toy -- or better yet, as one of his children: an entity to be adored, supported and pushed to be the best. Corporations don’t do that. For the most part, corporations are rigid, impersonal, business-first structures. They’re adept at business concepts such as 'synergy' and 'content management' and 'soaking the customer to the maximum degree.'” True, but one guy with passion and deep pockets isn't an automatic savior unless he knows hockey or is smart enough to let someone who does run the show. What have Charles Wang's millions done for the Islanders during the past decade?