Signs point to move for Thrashers

Paul Friesen, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:31 AM ET

Two days into the Atlanta Thrashers watch, and its been hard to find one reason to believe the NHLs latest hotspot franchise wont just burn right up and move, like the Flames before it.

First, NHL brass acknowledges it cant guarantee the Thrashers will be in Georgia next season.

Normally, Gary Bettman and Bill Daly talk around questions like that.

Scribes in Atlanta, while calling for the NHL to fight for the team the way it did for the Phoenix Coyotes, say its all but over. One said Friday hes 95% sure the Thrashers are moving to the Peg.

But the most telling comments Ive seen came from one of the Thrashers owners, Bruce Levenson, who talked to an Atlanta TV crew before the Hawks/Chicago Bulls game, Thursday night.

A few things about Levensons interview stood out.

One, when he was asked if the solution finding a buyer to keep the team in Atlanta was any closer than it was two months ago.

I dont think so, no, Levenson said.

Two, when he was asked about the possibility he and his partners could hang in there another year while they look for a buyer.

Thats a scenario we havent even thought about it, was his mind-boggling reply, apparently contradicting the suggestion Daly made the same day, when he suggested another year for the same owners, in the same place, was possible.

And last, but certainly not least, Levenson was asked what hed say to fans wondering where the whole thing stands.

If you know anybody whos interested, have them get in touch with us, he said.

Not, Hang in there, were doing everything we can. Not, Keep the faith. Not, Buy your season tickets to help us out.

Instead, Levenson wondered aloud if there was a billionaire in the cheap seats who might have an extra $110 million in his jeans that he wouldnt mind spending, between beers and hot dogs, to keep hockey in Hot-lanta.

He looked and sounded like an owner whos given up.

Add it all up, and things look pretty bleak for fans down there, pretty bright for folks up here, at least the ones ready to buy back into the bigs.

Unless, that is, you believe in mystery buyers like The Balkan, an unidentified saviour reported in certain Atlanta circles as willing to buy the Thrashers, Hawks and Phillips Arena and keep them all right where they are.

Seems to me theres about as much chance of that guy existing as a balcony billionaire in torn jeans with cash falling out of his pockets.

Of course, the other side will tell you theyre already charging credit cards for Thrashers season-ticket payments, that the Manitoba Moose started selling next season a week ago and that the Carolina Hurricanes scheduled an exhibition game against Atlanta for Sept. 25, in Charlotte, N.C.

But those are all just details, payable today, refundable tomorrow.

Yes, its getting awfully late to relocate an NHL franchise, maybe an AHL one, too, for next season.

I dont pretend to know which way this ones going to go, any more than I know which way Phoenix will go.

But I will interrupt the hysteria to offer a dash of sober, second thought.

As thrilled as most of us will be with the return of big-league hockey to our soggy burg, does it really have to be the Coyotes or Thrashers?

I mean, these two franchises have thinner histories than Tweet Deck.

Between the two of them, theyve missed the playoffs 17 of their last 22 seasons.

Neither has won even a single playoff series, Atlanta not a solitary playoff game.

Why cant the Sharks or Lightning be on the move, instead?

Then again, given the sorry recent history of the Blue Bombers, and before that the Jets, the Thrashers would fit right in.


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