WINNIPEG - As Manitobans continue to wait on pins and needles for official word to come down that the Atlanta Thrashers are relocating to Winnipeg, there is a group in the middle of this situation longing for resolution as well.
“The sooner the better for everybody, so you can move forward and make plans, if need be,” Thrashers goalie Chris Mason said from his off-season home in Red Deer, Alta., on Thursday.
Just what has it been like for players under contract to the Thrashers to be sitting idly by?
“It’s been really interesting, checking the Internet every day,” said Mason. “A lot of people assume we’d be on the inside and know what’s going on and get notification from either side and that hasn’t been the case. We’re trying to follow the news with the situation. You get up, check every day and kind of try to monitor what’s going on. Everybody is kind of in the same boat, we’re just waiting to see what’s going to happen and what’s going to be the outcome. It’s a weird circumstance, but there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Much was written about how the possible sale and relocation of the Phoenix Coyotes to Winnipeg served as a major distraction during the Stanley Cup playoffs, but the Thrashers began to hear about them being a potential target late in late March and early April.
“You know what, we started getting a few whispers at the end of the season but it wasn’t anything that was really bothersome in the room or was a major issue,” said Mason. “There were just a few whispers that if it didn’t work out in Phoenix (to move to Winnipeg) that it was possible (True North Sports & Entertainment) might look at Atlanta next. Nothing too serious but it picked up a lot of steam here in the last month.”
Mason signed a two-year deal with the Thrashers last summer and while he enjoyed his season in Atlanta and feels for the fans who are about to lose their team, the prospect of playing a few provinces over from his hometown is enticing.
“I grew up watching the Jets and I’ve always envisioned what it would be like to play on a Canadian team,” said Mason. “I enjoyed my time in Atlanta, but if that’s the way it goes, I would be excited to play in Winnipeg.
“I can remember the White Outs in the playoffs and I loved the uniforms the Jets had. I was a huge Bob Essensa fan. I loved Nikolai Khabibulin. And having played with Keith Tkachuk the last couple years (with the St. Louis Blues), he would always tell me stories about Winnipeg and give me some insight.
“For me, I always remember watching Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg. Those places hit home.”
Mason actually played in the old Winnipeg Arena with the Milwaukee Admirals and San Antonio Rampage before becoming an NHL regular.
“I can’t single out a game that was memorable,” said Mason. “But just like now, when you’re playing in the States and you get to go back to Canada to play in your country, you always remember the chatter from the guys looking forward to it and making plans to go here or there.”