ATLANTA - OCTOBER 08: Evander Kane #9 of the Atlanta Thrashers walks out of the locker room for pregame warmups before facing the Washington Capitals at Philips Arena on October 8, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Atlanta Thrashers Have 3 Local Suitors In Potential Sale, Says Report

According to the Sporting News, there are three potential buyers interested in the Atlanta Thrashers, and all of them would keep the team in town.

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Report: 3 Local Buyers Interested In Purchasing Atlanta Thrashers

We don't know who is interested in purchasing the Atlanta Thrashers, but a report from Craig Custance of the Sporting News does tell us a few things about the continued attempt by the team's current owners to ship them off to the highest bidder.

Custance, who worked on the Thrashers beat before going national, reports that there are three potential owners interested in buying the team from Atlanta Spirit Group, which currently owns the Thrashers, the NBA's Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena. Most importantly, all three owners would keep the team in Atlanta, says one of the current owners, Bruce Levenson.

Via the Sporting News:

According to Levenson, the three potential buyers are currently only interested in buying the Thrashers and not the NBA's Hawks - and all would keep the NHL team in Atlanta.

The preference is to sell to a local buyer, but ownership hasn't ruled out ultimately selling to someone interested in moving the team. The group has not yet engaged in serous conversations with anyone outside of Atlanta interested in moving the Thrashers.

When will that change?

"When we have exhausted our efforts to find somebody in Atlanta," Levenson said.

For the time being, at least, there are still options for Atlanta Spirit in their attempt to sell the team to a local buyer.

The longer this drags on, though, the more uneasy fans in Atlanta deserve to be. For now, there seems to be at least a little bit of progress here. Potential owners who want to keep the team in town. Good news, right? Well, unless you're in Winnipeg.

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Should Atlanta Falcons Owner Arthur Blank Buy The Atlanta Thrashers?

The Atlanta Thrashers are in financial trouble. They need a local investor or a local buyer to keep the team in town long-term, according to one of their current owners, Michael Gearon of Atlanta Spirit Group.

The fans say that the problems don't fall on their shoulders. There is a fanbase in Atlanta, they say, and if ownership didn't mismanage everything, the fans would be there. When the Thrashers made the playoffs, the fans were there. When the team was new, the fans were there. When the team is a bumbling mess and ownership is threatening relocation, the fans aren't there.

Hard to disagree with that assessment (unless you live in, say, Winnipeg). 

So what will save the Thrashers? If the current ownership group doesn't get it and they aren't willing to take on losses much longer, it seems clear that a brand-new owner is the best-case scenario. A local owner that cares. 

Could that man be Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons? Via SB Nation Atlanta's Jason Kirk:

The reasons why are obvious. Besides just producing a winning team that stays out of trouble, takes community work very seriously, and is doing everything it can to educate Atlanta sports fans on punctuality, Blank also provides a respectable representative of the team and city. He's a person with a name and a face -- that alone sets him apart from Atlanta's other sports ownership.

The highest compliment any sports fan can raise about team ownership: this guy gives a s***.

There's even a new website, ArthurBlankBuyTheThrashers.com, which pleads with the Falcons owner to save the city's hockey franchise. It's a noble cause and the author of the site, Chris Ciovacco, lays down a convincing case for the Thrashers to stay in town.

Personally, as a fan who's lost a hockey team before, I can sympathize with Ciovacco and the rest of the Thrashers fans that are going through this right now. No matter what level of what sport, it's not easy losing something you've invested so much of your time and energy (and money) in. It goes a lot like this, via Ciovacco:

My father and I, along with my brother, spent countless hours talking about, and attending Atlanta Flames games when I was a kid. I was twelve years old when the Flames packed their bags for Calgary. I, like countless little hockey fans in Atlanta, was heartbroken when the ‘Flame' was put out in 1980. I cried when the Flames left. The heralded coming of the "Ice Age" ended abruptly and was a blow to our civic pride.

There is a real possibility that within a few short months, our civic pride will be hurt again and thousands of young hockey fans will cry when they find out there will be no Thrashers games to attend anymore with their fathers and mothers. Atlantans have an opportunity to save hockey in our hometown. Our beloved Atlanta Thrashers, of the National Hockey League, are in desperate need of a hero. 

They're hoping Blank becomes that hero. Even if he does purchase the team, which he's given no indication that he will, Kirk at SB Nation Atlanta says it's doubtful that he pays nearly as much attention to the team as he does with the Falcons.

That's a better option than losing the team, though, right Atlanta? 

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Atlanta Thrashers Ownership Claims 'Sense Of Urgency' As Relocation Talk Gets Louder

It hasn't even been 24 hours since the Atlanta Thrashers signed Dustin Byfuglien to a long-term, big money contract, but thanks to a few comments from one of the co-owners of the team, there are serious questions and doubts that the Thrashers will be in Atlanta when that contract ends in five years. 

In an interview with Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, co-owner Michael Gearon said there's a "sense of urgency" surrounding the ownership group, Atlanta Spirit, and their need to find somebody to invest in or purchase the team.

"If we are faced with that as the only alternative, that's what's going to happen," Gearon told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an exclusive interview Tuesday. "I don't think there is an ability to stomach another $20 million in losses. We just can't do it.

"The reality is we need fans showing up and we need investors, or a primary investor."

Gearon repeated multiple times his desire to keep the team in Atlanta and the struggles that go along with that, stating more than once the need for local support and the need for the local community to step up. According to him, that just hasn't happened. 

As you can see in the quote above, he put some of the onus on the fans. The fans, on the other hand, blame the ownership. From Laura Astorian at SB Nation Atlanta:

[NHL Commissioner Gary] Bettman is more than aware that the problem in Atlanta isn't the market, or the fans, or the players on ice. It's the ability of the ownership group to effectively manage an NHL business and property. It's embarrassing for the league to have to work with individuals who evidently do not take the business of hockey seriously. Furthermore, it's embarrassing for a major market like Atlanta to lose another NHL team because a competent local investor is unable to be found.

[...]

Apparently they have not put money into the ways to get fans into the seats, which is why fans aren't coming. You want season ticket renewals to go up? Don't give an interview to the AJC about how the team could move in a few years. You want people to come to the games? Tell people when they are and advertise the fact that this city has a hockey team.    

Despite the in-fighting between fans and ownership, the one true reality does still sit like a giant awkward canopy above them all.

The Atlanta Thrashers could move. Soon. The team is losing money hand over a fist, to the tune of $20 million a season, according to Gearon. If that keeps up, the team will be sold to somebody from out of town. That much seems obvious at this point.

There's still a lot to be written on this story, but it's a lot more plausible today than it was two days ago that Dustin Byfuglien finishes out that contract elsewhere. For more, check our blog, Bird Watchers Anonymous.

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