The Atlanta Thrashers have been sold to True North Sports and Entertainment and will be relocated to Winnipeg for the 2011-12 NHL season. That wouldn't be possible without the efforts of Atlanta Spirit Group's Bruce Levenson and Michael Gearon, the owners who signed the paperwork on the Thrashers side of things.
Fans are directing their ire at those two men in Atlanta these days, blaming them for neglecting the team and for not giving the fans a chance to support a successful organization. In one last dispatch to those fans, the now-former owners discussed the ultimate outcome.
In recent months, we openly indicated a growing urgency to secure assistance in off-setting our operating losses in hopes that our public plea would produce investors who, to that point, had eluded us.
After extensive effort, nobody has come forward. As a result, we had no choice but to explore the investment option presented to us by the NHL in the form of True North Sports and Entertainment.
Relocation of the Thrashers is not the outcome that any of us ultimately wanted. We knew when we purchased the club in 2004, that professional sports teams are seldom, if ever, money-making investments but rather vital community assets. We believed in the overall impact that the team had on the sports landscape of Atlanta, and over the past seven years, invested a significant amount of money into what we felt was an integral piece of the greater metropolitan Atlanta area. We are truly grateful to have been a part of this city's professional hockey history, to have made an indelible impact on the community through our players' outreach, our organization's activities and our foundation's donations, and most of all, to have been a part of paying tribute to you, our fans, each and every time our team stepped on the ice.
Thank you for the opportunity to be entertained, thrilled and inspired alongside you by Atlanta Thrashers hockey. None of this would have been possible without your support.
Fans aren't going to like that. They can't stand Gearon and Levenson, and this will no doubt come off as smug and self-serving. That's very possibly the legacy the Thrashers will leave in Atlanta.