Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hockey hearts beat in Atlanta

True fans were devastated when the Thrashers left for Winnipeg

  • Print
Atlanta resident Todd Cormack is the proud owner of a Thrashers jersey, while Luke Dixon prefers Jets garb.

GEOFF KIRBYSON / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Atlanta resident Todd Cormack is the proud owner of a Thrashers jersey, while Luke Dixon prefers Jets garb. Photo Store

ATLANTA -- Todd Cormack knows the pain of losing his favourite hockey team. Twice.

The longtime Atlanta hockey fan was devastated when the Thrashers were sold to True North Sports & Entertainment and rechristened the Winnipeg Jets nearly three years ago.

What was widely considered a betrayal by the Atlanta Spirit Group, however, only served to reopen some three-decade-old wounds inflicted when the Atlanta Flames relocated to Calgary in 1980.

He has fond memories of attending Flames games with his grandfather, where they cheered on Dan Bouchard, Willi Plett and even former WHA Jet Kent Nilsson for one season.

Decked out in a Tim Stapleton No. 42 jersey and a Thrashers cap, Cormack estimated he wears the defunct team's logo about four times a week.

Even though he still follows his favourite players -- Bryan Little, Chris Thorburn, Jim Slater, Toby Enstrom and Ondrej Pavelec -- with the Jets, he averts his eyes when asked if he has any item of clothing featuring a Jets logo.

'Watching them now, they're exactly the same team. I feel bad for Winnipeg. They thought it was going to be awesome, but they're the same team'

-- Thrashers fan Lauren Godinez

"No," he said, fiddling with his beer coaster. "I won't."

Cormack was one of a half-dozen Thrashers fans who agreed to meet a Winnipeg reporter in an Atlanta pub this week to watch their old team in new uniforms play the Minnesota Wild.

(When the Wild scored the only goal of the game in the second period, Cormack yelled "No!" at his computer, which served as the television for the Thrashers fans at Meehan's in the north part of town.)

For 20-year-old Luke Dixon, May 31, 2011 marked the departure of the team he had cheered for since he was seven years old.

Like many Thrashers fans, he found out the team had been sold to True North -- despite the constant protestations from ASG about their commitment to Atlanta -- via social media.

"That was one of the worst Twitter (feeds) I've ever come across. I was pretty upset. I knew in the back of my mind it's a business, but I felt like I was seven years old again and my childhood innocence was taken away," he said.

Unlike Cormack, Dixon has reluctantly moved on fashion-wise. Underneath his green hoodie he reveals a dark blue Jets T-shirt and quickly covers it up again after a photo is taken. His smartphone also features a Jets-logo background when he enters his pass code which reverts to a Thrashers logo when it's locked.

Even Ben Wright, who oversaw the Thrashers' website and its social media presence for six years, didn't know anything was going down with ASG until the last minute.

"It was devastating to lose the team. It was also not great to lose my job," he said.

What still rankles Thrashers fans to this day, however, is they never got a chance to say goodbye, he said.

Wright admits having a soft spot for Little, who was the first prospect he dealt with. He also likes to see Chris Thorburn do well, as they both had children around the same time a few years ago and would compare notes on hospital visits.

Laura Astorian and her friend, Lauren Godinez, also keep an eye on Slater, Little and Thorburn. They even wore their Thrashers jerseys to the first Jets-Predators game in Nashville -- a five-hour drive -- a couple of years ago.

"I'm glad they went somewhere instead of folding," Godinez said. "Watching them now, they're exactly the same team. I feel bad for Winnipeg. They thought it was going to be awesome, but they're the same team."

Astorian, who used to write for a Thrashers' blog, said a few of them ran into Slater during their trip.

"He said was surprised we came up to that game," she said. "The most surprising thing for us was how nice the Predators' arena was, how many sponsors they had and how successful the franchise was compared to Atlanta."

Brad Tachco wasn't even a Thrashers fan and he was furious with ASG and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on that fateful May morning. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he grew up following the Buffalo Sabres.

"I just loved watching NHL hockey," he said.

"Bettman bent over backwards in Phoenix when nobody wanted to own the team there and in five minutes the Thrashers were sold to Winnipeg. There was no effort made to keep the team here."

On the flip side, however, he admitted to being happy for hockey fans in Winnipeg.

"Even though I didn't want it to happen to us, they didn't deserve what happened to them in 1996," he said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 13, 2014 B5

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Maurice Leggett on his three interceptions vs. Alouettes

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 110621 - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 -  Doug Chorney, president Keystone Agricultural Producers flight over South Western Manitoba to check on the condition of farming fields. MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
my2011poy
  • A pelican comes in for a landing Wednesday afternoon on the Red River at Lockport, Manitoba - Standup photo- June 27, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

How many wins do you think the Bombers will finish with this season?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google