The hockey world is abuzz with excitement today as the NHL is set to announce the Atlanta Thrashers have been sold and will move immediately back to Winnipeg. Atlanta’s ownership has long been in disarray, and with a lack of local ownership options, the team just could not survive.â†µ
The Thrashers' inaugural season was 1999-2000, and it was Atlanta’s second NHL franchise - the Flames moved to Calgary in 1980. The Thrashers never won a single NHL playoff game and only made the postseason one time, an amazing feat for a league where more than half the teams make the playoffs.
The Penguins feasted on the Thrashers, going 33-8-3 all-time against the soon-to-be-defunct team, including a 5-2 Penguins win in Atlanta’s final game. Mike Comrie, who the team recently announced will not be re-signed, scored the last goal, and his only regular-season tally in a Penguins uniform. (Comrie also scored the first pre-season goal to christen the Consol Energy Center, giving him a high goal to trivia ratio in his brief Penguin career.)â†µ
Moving forward, the NHL plans to have the new Winnipeg team stay in the Southeast division before re-aligning the league for the 2012-13 season. It’s believed then one of Detroit, Columbus or Nashville will shift to the East and Winnipeg will take a rightful place in the West. This season will present huge travel issues for the league - the Penguins, for instance, play two games a season in Atlanta. It remains to be seen if they will have two extra cross-country trips or if the schedule will keep them in Winnipeg for back-to-back games.â†µ
It’s a joyous day in Canada for adding its seventh NHL franchise, but it comes at the expense of a cluster of diehard Atlanta fans, who’ve seen the NHL abandon them twice in 30 years. For those of us in Pittsburgh who can still remember how close the Penguins were to leaving town, it’s something to sympathize with.