05.30.11

James : ATL Hockey Fans Screwed By Incompetent Spirit

Posted in Blogged Down, Hockey at 2:00 pm by

(above : possibly not the sort of marketing initiative Arik James was hoping for)

“I’m not going to lie – Atlanta is not organically a hockey town,” declares Arik James of Matchsticks & Gasoline, who also points that on the rare occasions the Braves aren’t in content, it’s not much of a baseball town, either. Citing a sense of entitlement, James suggests, “the average population feel like there’s no way a major league would abandon a huge market such as Atlanta, so why put forth any extra effort?”, though the burden of providing such effort might also rest on the shoulders of an ownership group keen to sell the Thrashers to a group ready to move them to Winnipeg.

You have a large group of fans who are still a minority in the Atlanta sports market thanks to competition with things like college football and the like. It turns into a family, and the small market hockey family is a great thing. The feeling around the team here is so much different than it would ever be somewhere like Calgary, or Toronto, or Montreal. The fans feel like we have a direct stake in the team like it’s us (which includes them) versus the rest of the world. We’re more than willing to expand and grow that family to 5.5 million people, but the ownership group has made that more than difficult. Would you like to be adopted by a dysfunctional family whose patriarch has no idea that you exist? A patriarch who gives you the bare minimum of what you need to survive while taking your hard earned time and money?

Hockey’s a wonderful sport- the best that there is. It belongs everywhere. Not just in cold market climates, not just in big cities or small cities with rabid fanbases. It belongs everywhere, but it has to be given a chance. It’s so easy to get people to love the sport. I have converted many of my Southern friends to it just by taking them to one game and explaining the rules. There’s no reason that this city couldn’t be a hockey town. It’s got the market right here. It’s got the Northern transplants, it has a passionate fanbase, and it has a team with a great deal of growing potential. Unfortunately, regardless of how many fans we bring to games and we do bring people and try to get as many butts in the stands as possible, it’s very difficult to grow a market when the owners don’t care if that market grows or not. They recently admitted on television that they don’t know a thing about hockey. Can you imagine if the Flames were owned by an ownership group who had no clue about a single rule? Or, and this happened on the radio here, could only name one member of your current team? How does that encourage community participation and growth?

Hockey in Atlanta- not just the Thrashers – grew when Turner owned the team, and hockey can grow when someone other than these incompetent boobs own the team. I’d hate to see the league give up on a potential market of this size because of the stupidity of seven individuals.

One Response to “James : ATL Hockey Fans Screwed By Incompetent Spirit”

  1. glenzo says:

    Having lived here for 16 years, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that ATL is a pretty weak pro sports town, period. The unsold seats at Braves playoff games became a national punchline- along with the “put a good product on the field and the fans will come” rule, apparently there’s a corollary: “…but don’t do it so often that the fans become jaded.”

    Just this month the same Spirit management waged a successful full court press to gain sellouts of the Hawks’ second round playoff series. I was impressed that they hunted me down and cold called based on my having purchased tickets for a regular season Bulls game…but the fact remains they were reduced to selling the conference semis based on **the marquee value of the opposing team.** The Falcons are currently the exception that proves the rule, but they’ve had their share of TV blackouts during my time here, and with an untimely twist of Matt Ryan’s ACL I wouldn’t be shocked to see more.

    I really do feel for the small base of committed fans losing their team, and ownership certainly hasn’t made it any easier (that Don Waddell could last so long given such a proven record of sustained medicrity is surreal), but this won’t be the first time the market failed to hold a team, either. I agree hockey *could* work here, but you have to wonder what the upside scenario looks like. Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine expansion on the horizon and there are several Canadian cities that look like surer bets even with middling teams (and who probably would never have lost their teams, absent some cockeyed 90s economics).

    Last week the Atlanta Journal Constitution ran handwringing pieces on consecutive days attacking Gary Bettman and local management for their evil ways (a required bit of hometown pride, I guess). The next day, without any reference to the irony, the lead sports item was a feature on the significant dropoff in Braves attendance.

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