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Frequently Asked Questions - As of May 31, 2011 at Noon

Here are Chris Ciovacco's (one of the creators of this website) remarks following the press conference in Winnipeg:

"Our hope was that the NHL would remain somewhat distant from today's announcement in Winnipeg - that is not what we got. If True North/Winnipeg made the announcement without the NHL present, there would have been a crack left in the door to look for a solution in Atlanta prior to the NHL Board of Governors' vote on June 21. Given that Gary Bettman was present and participated in Winnipeg on Tuesday announcing the ‘NHL's return’; it is difficult to envision the NHL Board of Governors voting against relocation. Tuesday's announcement has turned sentiment toward ‘it's over’ in Atlanta making it difficult to lobby for new owners in the next three weeks."

"Our strategy will be to see if the tone changes in any way over the coming days, especially if the NHL gives an indication there is any reason to hope. Technically, we still have time. From a sentiment and public perception standpoint, our options are somewhat limited. We are willing to keep fighting if circumstances change or if leaders in Atlanta decide to lead.”

“We feel our best hope at this point would be to get Mayor Reed, Bernie Marcus, Arthur Blank, Truett Cathy, and Ann Cox Chambers in a room. These downtown stakeholders have the financial resources to approach the NHL with an 11th hour solution to protect a valuable community asset in the form of our NHL franchise. We feel the city has underestimated the negative impact on our national reputation and civic pride.”

“We want to thank all the great fans in the United States and Canada that tried to keep the NHL in the 8th largest TV market in the United States; a market that is also one of the fastest growing cities in terms of number of people playing the great sport of hockey.”

These FAQs were written before the May 31, 2011 anoouncment in Winnipeg. They still apply from a technical standpoint.

The Thrashers situation is plagued not by its lack of potential, but by an uncalled for pessimistic outlook. No business, in any field, could prosper running an operation with the Atlanta Spirit's playbook. The Thrashers are a diamond in the rough, waiting to be polished by savvy investors.

As of May 31 at Noon, is there still a chance we can keep the Thrashers?

Yes. Even if a deal is announced formally between the Atlanta Spirit Group and Winnipeg's True North Sports and Entertainment, there is still time to keep the Thrashers in Atlanta. Gary Bettman, the NHL Commissioner, stated on May 26, 2011:

“Well nobody has decided to do anything yet. There isn't a deal. If there is a deal, it has to go through the usual processes and procedures that we have.”

The usual process and procedures includes approval by the NHL Board of Governors. The NHL Board of Governors is scheduled to vote on June 21, 2011. Until that vote takes place, we have time to find a solution to keep the Thrashers in Atlanta. According to ESPN:

"Even if the Thrashers and True North agree to a deal, the board of governors and the league reserve the right to explore the possibility of keeping the team in Atlanta if a local interest suddenly pops up in the wake of the Winnipeg announcement…it's a right the league has."

Don Waddell, executive Vice President of the Atlanta Thrashers, stated on May 27, 2011:

“Along with all other groups who have expressed an interest in pursuing an ownership opportunity, which has happened as recently as earlier this week, until an agreement is signed and approved by the board of governors, it’s never too late, but they will have to move very quickly and decisively. Ownership still is committed to selling at a greatly reduced price to anyone committed to Atlanta.”

An excellent review and relevant portions of the NHL By-Laws can be found in Do NHL Bylaws Forbid The Atlanta Thrashers From Moving To Winnipeg?.

On May 27, FOX5 Atlanta reported after interviewing Michael Gearon, one of the team’s current owners:

“According to Gearon, all it would have taken to keep the team here was a few investors for about one to $5 million each.”

Surely, we can all work together in Atlanta to find the bridge solution Mr. Gearon is referring to above, which will give us more time to find a permanent solution.


Why should Atlanta leaders protect the Thrashers? (see video)

This is the original plea to business and civic leaders made in February 2011:


What is the single biggest stumbling block to finding a solution to keep the Thrashers in Atlanta next year?

As Commissioner Bettman has repeatedly stated, regardless of the positive growth of youth hockey in Atlanta, the market size of the city, and the fully understandable disenchantment of fans with the performance and ownership of the Thrashers, the only issue at hand is whether someone is willing to buy the team and retain it in Atlanta. Period.

While we appreciate Mayor Reed’s efforts to-date to keep the Thrashers in Atlanta, we believe that he has prematurely given up, perhaps under the impression that the deal is done. We respectfully ask the mayor to re-initiate such efforts, as the impact of losing our NHL franchise would be far greater than has been stated. Conversely, the potential for viability of the franchise in Atlanta is far greater than has been stated. Other non-traditional hockey cities, such as Nashville and Tampa, have faced similar situations, and have successfully retained their NHL franchises, greatly to the advantage of the community. Therefore, the potential for the Thrashers to succeed in Atlanta is very realistic, based on these very recent examples of similar situations, particularly when viewed in light of the strong support that the team had in its first few years in Atlanta. Furthermore, it should be emphasized that there is no need for public funds; Atlanta has numerous corporate resources (Coca-Cola, Home Depot, UPS, Delta, Chick-fil-A, etc).

If you want an example of the type of leadership we need from Mayor Reed, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson led the fight to keep the Sacramento Kings in Sacramento:

Can the Mayor help with the Philips Arena lease terms?

Yes. Mayor Reed can help craft a new lease arrangement for the Thrashers to play in Philips Arena. More favorable lease terms will make it much easier for investors to step forward. We encourage potential investors to publicly state that a new lease arrangement would assist in their willingness to invest.

At this late hour, what is the best way to help protect our NHL franchise?

Our goal should be to build a short-term financial bridge that allows the Thrashers to play in Atlanta next year. This will give Mayor Reed and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman more time to find a permanent solution.

Who can help build this financial bridge to keep the Thrashers in Atlanta for the 2011-2012 season?

Local corporations, such as Coca-Cola, Home Depot, UPS, Chick-fil-A, Cousins Properties, and Delta, can work with Atlanta leaders, such as Bernie Marcus, Tom Cousins, Truett Cathy, and Arthur Blank.

What is the benefit to Coke, Home Depot, UPS, Chick-fil-A and Delta?

In difficult economic times, people are looking for leaders to lead. For example, in 1936 the City of Atlanta was facing bankruptcy and was unable pay its' employees. In this financial crisis, Coca-Cola rose up to Atlanta's dire need and provided necessary cash and loan backing to get Atlanta back on its feet. The private sector helping the public sector has been done in the past and can certainly happen again.

If these corporations, headquartered in Atlanta, step up, the amount of goodwill they will create is immeasurable. Keeping the Thrashers in Atlanta would be the “feel good” story of 2011. Atlantans would surely remember the valuable leadership provided by these companies when it comes time to choose a way to quench their thirst, improve their home, ship a parcel, dine out, or plan their next trip. The following tag lines all have a nice ring to them:

  • “Coca-Cola is the official soft drink of your Atlanta Thrashers”
  • “Home Depot is the official home improvement store of your Atlanta Thrashers”
  • “UPS is the official package delivery company of your Atlanta Thrashers”
  • “Delta is the official airline of your Atlanta Thrashers”
  • “Chick-fil-A is the official chicken sandwich of your Atlanta Thrashers”
  • “The Gulch is the official entertainment destination for your Atlanta Thrashers”

What is the benefit for Atlanta’s leaders with financial resources to provide assistance?

Bernie Marcus gave Atlanta a very generous gift in the form of the Georgia Aquarium. Mr. Marcus wants to add a $200M ferris wheel to the redevelopment project planned for the Gulch, a parcel of land adjacent to Philips Arena, the home of the Thrashers. Cousins Properties recently won the right to develop the Gulch. Truett Cathy’s Chick-fil-A is the title sponsor of the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which has BCS aspirations. Those aspirations rest, in part, on Atlanta’s reputation as the “Sports Capital of the World”. Arthur Blank is looking to build a new open-air stadium for the Atlanta Falcons in downtown Atlanta on a site that is a short walk from Philips Arena.

All four of these Atlantans have shown tremendous leadership and generosity as they helped improve the quality of life for all Atlantans. All four of these leaders are stakeholders in the downtown area. They want to continue to develop a critical mass downtown that attracts tourist and convention-friendly services, such as hotels, restaurants, and bars. Critical mass downtown also increases the need for infrastructure improvements and police presence. These men understand the immeasurable value of goodwill. There is a great opportunity for goodwill while they further enhance their legacies as some of Atlanta’s most caring and influential leaders. We appreciate their contributions to Atlanta. We are confident they will assist in this time of need.

Is there upside potential in an investment in the Atlanta Thrashers?

Yes. The current ownership group has alienated the fans. The prospect of new ownership will reenergize the fan base and give an immediate and significant boost to attendance and merchandise sales. The fans have shown a willingness to support a new ownership group. One example is the Keep The Thrashers facebook page, which has only been in existence for a short time. The facebook page already has over 5,000 “likes”.

According to a story in the New York Times, Georgia is one of the fastest growing hockey markets in the United States:

USA Hockey has been keeping track of player registration on a state-by-state basis since the 1998-99 season, enabling us to get a snapshot of where the game is growing — and shrinking — in the United States…What they show is a country where hockey on a participatory level is growing by big leaps in those Sun Belt states that have new or newly popular N.H.L. teams — places like the District of Columbia, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida.

A group willing to keep the Thrashers in Atlanta can buy the team at a below-market-value price. A simple comparison to the value of other NHL franchises highlights the potential for significant price appreciation for investors/new owners. The Thrashers are a poorly managed, undervalued asset. Any losses suffered in the next two years can easily be offset by an increase in the value of the franchise.

If you want to understand the recent problem with attendance at Thrashers games and the vast potential for a quick turnaround, see Jeff Schultz's piece.

The fans, including the creators of www.keepthethrashers.com, will do everything in their power to increase attendance and revenue for a new ownership group. Atlanta has a broad base of hockey fans just waiting for a reason to come back and support the NHL.

Other NHL franchises have come back from similar circumstances, such as the Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Buffalo Sabres. The Nashville Predators on-ice success has translated into season ticket sales running 20% ahead of last year’s numbers. The losses in Atlanta can be minimized quickly, much quicker than most understand. There are many misconceptions about the current state of hockey in Atlanta, which are covered in this video



What do you believe is the best-case outcome in the short-term?

We believe Atlanta’s business and civic leaders need to reach out to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Local leaders, like Mr. Blank and Mayor Reed, with the help of the NHL, need to find investors who will keep the NHL in the Capital of the South.

How significant of a role does the NHL’s Board of Governors play in relocating teams or approving new owners?

Their role is very significant. The league office wants to keep the Thrashers in Atlanta, but they need to see some support from both community leaders and local hockey fans.

Many fans have advocated that the best thing a real hockey fan can do is boycott the Thrashers until we get new owners. Do you agree with that strategy?

While we understand the rationale behind the concept, we respectfully disagree with any boycott of the Thrashers. Current ownership has publicly announced the team is for sale. If hockey fans hope to garner the support of potential investors and the NHL Board of Governors, the best thing we can do is support the franchise. The long-term goal for a fan should be the stability of the franchise in our hometown. Ownership groups come and go, but franchises become part of the community’s fabric with the love for the local team being passed down from generation to generation. A continued boycott by previously loyal fans will boycott the team all the way out of town, which is not what any real fan wants to see.

Is there an NFL rule preventing Arthur Blank from owning both the Falcons and the Thrashers?

Here is the rule as it stood in 2008:

"No person who owns a majority interest in, or has direct or indirect operating control of an NFL member club, may own or acquire any interest in a club in another major team sport (baseball, basketball, hockey), except for a club located in: a.) his/her NFL club's home city, or b.) a non-NFL city that is not a potential NFL city."

When all is said and done, the fans of the Thrashers stand to lose the most. Obviously supporting the team by attending games is the long term answer, but what can they do now?

  • They can promote the team by participation in radio sports talk shows, and thereby raising awareness of the Thrashers in a more balanced light.
  • They can contact the mayor’s office and the public relations office of the above-mentioned corporations, expressing their request continued efforts to find ownership to keep the Thrashers in Atlanta.
  • Offer to make presentations to local civic and corporate groups, providing greater detail to the points made above, and offering personal testimony as to the value of the Thrashers, not just to individual fans, but to the community-at-large.
  • Enlisting individuals of high standing and repute in the community to step forward.
  • Learn from the fan clubs in other cities who have succeeded in similar efforts, and apply those lessons as appropriate to Atlanta.


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