Although their situation is largely overshadowed by the ongoing debacle in Arizona, the future for the Atlanta Thrashers is just as shrouded in uncertainty. The current ownership group in Atlanta is looking for somewhere in the range of $110 million for the Thrashers franchise, Forbes Magazine reported earlier this week. There was some reason for optimism after reports surfaced that the former Atlanta Braves and New York Mets pitcher Tom Glavine had expressed interest in being part of a potential ownership group.
After speaking with part-owner Michael Gearon Jr., the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports there has only been ‘limited progress’ at this point.
“We continue to have discussions with different prospective investors or buyers of the franchise,” Gearon told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week. “The comments I made in February generated some preliminary interest. I wish there was more. There are some people we are talking to, but nothing that is far enough along at this stage that it deserves further comment.”
The Thrashers have resurfaced in discussions of franchises that could potentially be relocated to Winnipeg, Mantioba along with the Phoenix Coyotes. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman declined to comment on that speculation this week, the AJC reports:
“I’m not going to weigh in on something that is purely speculative and made up,” Bettman said. “The fact of the matter is, we’re focused on making Phoenix work, and that’s where we’re directing our attention right now.”
That’s not to say that the Thrashers are not a candidate for relocation, but rather that they’re not currently the league’s most pressing struggling franchise.
Gearon reiterated that his ownership group is still faced with a ‘sense of urgency’, but that his intention is to keep the franchise in Atlanta:
“I’d hate to see it get to that point [relocation]. … You sometimes don’t appreciate what you have until you don’t have it — whether that’s the children that eventually get out of high school and go off to college and don’t live in your house any more, or sports teams.
“I know what it was like for me as a child when the Atlanta Flames [the city’s first NHL franchise] left in 1980. It was tough on me, and it was tough on the city. I don’t want to see that happen with the Atlanta Thrashers.”
Having Tom Glavine on board as a potential part-owner will certainly help the Thrashers’ prospects of staying in Atlanta, but he can’t do it alone. Glavine will need some proverbial relief Atlanta is to retain its hockey team.