If the Thrashers move to Winnipeg, itself a ‘failed’ NHL market becomes a reality, it will be for much the same reason. Not because of a failure to draft well, not because some inviolabe law of the universe prevents winning in that location. It won’t even be because no one cared. Hell, we can all name quote unquote bad sports markets that have had teams win championships.
There’s a movie, about a much lesser sport that has is famous for the line “if you build it they will come” this truth is of course how hundreds of towns get on the map and draw tourists and their willing wallets all over the continent. Everything from the biggest ball of yarn, to corn mazes, and all manner of other things people might find interesting if they are in the area, or can make an excuse to be there. The owners of the Atlanta Thrashers have failed to heed this truism. They didn’t build, they didn’t retain, they simply expected people to show up for something. To create a new tradition, you must first make it attractive. Winning is the most attractive thing possible in sports. The Thrashers never have. They had Ilya Kovalchuk, Marc Savard, Marian Hossa all at once. All. At. Once. ALL! AT! ONCE! What did they do with this embarrassment of riches? They embarrassed themselves. They failed to secure the additional talent to put them over the top. They then failed to secure any of the three franchise quality players to long term deals.
Instead, what they did was squabble, bicker, name call and engage in litigation against each other. Another truism I think everyone is familiar with is “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”, business men are supposed to be in the business of making money not headlines. Atlanta Spirit, unlike the ownership in Phoenix weren’t saddled with an atrocious lease, they owned the building. They weren’t a driving force behind the team, they weren’t even the quiet spider at the center of a web quietly pulling strings. They had celebrity fans who with even a little bit of success could have helped turn the Thrashers into a cash cow.
Insufferable arrogance, breathtaking ignorance, grotesque levels of laziness are a recipe for failure and in this case the brain trust that is Atlanta Spirit have contrived to brew it to excellence.