Thank you to the 90% of hockey fans in Winnipeg who have not bashed Atlanta or the sport during these last few months. To the other 10% (who I am convinced are all 15 years old and who don’t even remember the Jets), I’d just like to let you know that your vocal contingency is making an already difficult situation worse. Please try to refrain from gloating too much as the Board of Governors officially gives our team to you. And please, please refrain from telling any of us to “get over it,” when we’ve had exactly 20 days since the announcement and a good many people in Winnipeg have been upset by the loss of the Jets for sixteen years.
Hockey’s the greatest sport in the world. It should grow to markets unexposed to it to give those people a chance to experience this great game. Moving an Atlanta team – a team that if given competent ownership would have a chance to succeed – to Winnipeg does nothing to grow the sport. It contracts it. I’ve always wanted a team back in Winnipeg, but not via relocation. Killing a growing market to satiate another makes no sense in the general NHL business scheme of things.
Of course, to hear the NHL’s statements on any of this, there are no fans in Atlanta. There is no market. This team didn’t sell out of 12,000 season tickets its first year in town. It didn’t pull over 17K a game that year. No, the playoffs weren’t a box office success at all – not being able to hear yourself think inside of an arena is a sign of a dead market, right? There were absolutely no sell-outs here ever. No one ever dared to walk down Centennial Olympic Park Drive chanting “HOSS-A HOSS-A” because of an unreal game that he had. Hockey fans are just a made-up creature here in Atlanta. We’re like the Whos. Except this time Horton can’t convince anyone we exist.
Maybe that’s why the league has never directed a statement to us (aside from Bettman’s pitiable one sentence). Maybe that’s why they never publicly recognized that the ownership and management killed this team, not lack of fan support – because how do you say something to someone who isn’t there? A fanbase that doesn’t exist doesn’t need a chance – no, doesn’t deserve a chance – to say goodbye.
Remember that, Winnipeg fans. As you got to say goodbye to the Jets in 1996 – as you saw Keith Tkachuk and Shane Doan walk down the tunnel for the last time – that’s not closure that we’ve had. The NHL might’ve treated you poorly back then, but keep in mind that you existed to the League on some level, just like you do now.
Us? Why, we’re just figments of your imagination.