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This article was published 12/4/2014 (748 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
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.
'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'
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.
"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.