In an effort to capture some of my Thrashers memories before they fade to black, I’ve created my own top 10 list of Thrashers memories. Truthfully I started writing a vitriolic rant a couple of weeks back in response to the backroom dealings that led to my puckbirds leaving for Winnipeg, whose book will be closed at today’s NHL Board of Governors meeting. Instead, I decided to change my mind and view it through the lens of someone familiar with the lyrics of a great Garth Brooks song.
10/9/1999 – Upstate royalty gets a dose of the proletariats
I went to the Thrashers third game ever, a home game vs. Buffalo. My wife and I had seats in the first row of the upper deck. This is where I learned how obnoxious Buffalo fans generally are. You would think they hail from Monaco with their egos. The Thrashers skated to a 5-5 tie to earn their first NHL point, even getting Dominik Hasek pulled in the 2nd period. It would an ominous sign for the Dominator, as it was just one of two years during an eight-year span where he would not win the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top netminder.
2/11/2000 – Who parties when getting walloped? Good Thrashers fans, that’s who!
A childhood friend of mine from California visited Atlanta, and we honored our once-hometown Sharks by going to the see the Thrashers host the Sharks. The Thrashers lost 3-0, but I’m not sure we cared, as this was the beginning of a long night that we think terminated at some point in Buckhead.
2003 or 2004 – Red-faced commish talks red line
At some point pre-lockout, I was riding up in the arena elevator to the suites level, and I stepped in and joined Gary Bettman on his way up. I recall it being in the 3rd period of a very low scoring game, and I simply asked “Commissioner, when do you think you’ll get rid of the red line and open up the game a bit?” He proceeded to give me a 15 second tirade on how it would be bad for the game and the fluidity of up-ice rushes would be compromised. He clearly would have preferred that I not say anything to him, and was visibly flustered that he had received such criticism of the sport he was in charge of. Needless to say the illegal two-line pass didn’t come back after the lockout, and although I’d like to say it was because I had influenced the commissioner, I was glad to just get to meet him in person and see just how volatile he can be.
1/26/2007 – The benefits of blogging
Having written perhaps two handfuls of Thrashers-related blog entries on my original blog “PT’s Big Adventure,” I was contacted by the new Thrashers official “blogger.” He had dreamt up the idea of a blogger’s night where all of the people currently blogging about the Thrashers would be VIPs. We came and got badged, and watched the game from the catwalk/media level that is just feet from the roof at Philips. After the Thrashers first goal, the 15 or so of us jumped up and cheered, only to be peered down by some suits for making noise. The Thrashers head blogger hadn’t bothered to tell us that it was a noise-free zone where the game is not the night’s “entertainment.” I can’t even remember if we won or lost that game, but I recall it was against the Islanders. We also got the behind the scenes tour of the arena, and got to sit in on the post-game press conference with coach Bob Hartley.
April 2007 – Unleash the Fury
I was sure I was going to win playoff tickets to see the Thrashers. The Thrashers sponsored a homemade YouTube video contest. I spent an hour or two creating a video with my 3 year old son Miles, sure that his cuteness would bring home the bacon. We didn’t, but the video remains alive on the internet, having garnered some 1,500 views to date, though the pace has dramatically slowed to about 1 per year…maybe you can watch to show your support.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjNo0p6Dr0E. It would be the Thrashers only playoff appearance.
Feb. 2008 – Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
My cousin hooked me up with a pair of tickets in the players’ families’s section to the NHL All Star Weekend in Atlanta. I won’t ever forget my 4-year old son’s absolute terror being surrounded by 32 mascots at the Skills competition. His “fury of silent furries” included a panther, shark, orca, saber-toothed tiger, bear, and various other characters who “see through their teeth.” Nor will I forget Martin St. Louis’s two adorable sons, the proud parents of Manny Legace, who finally got an All-Star nod, or just how much Chris Pronger looks like his dad. At the All Star Game, I had no idea why the woman next to us was so vociferously supporting the recognition of Willie O’Ree, the first African-American NHL player. Until the next day I figured it might have been someone who knew Jarome Iginla…and it turns out it was his wife Kara. Doh!
2/13/2008 – Facing your fear
As if Miles’ memory of all of those mascots wasn’t fresh enough, I was invited to attend the “Skate with the Thrashers” event on the Sunday after their season ended. While only Nic Havelid and Johan “Moose” Hedberg represented the players on the ice, Thrash made sure Miles didn’t spend too much time out there. The players locker room provided the safety that Miles coveted, and during a few Thrash-outs (when he wasn’t anywhere to be found), he would get on the ice and race as if he were Eric Heiden. But he took spills that made him look like Dan Janzen…ouch!
4/10/2010 – Evander shows where he got his name and his game
Having called a local radio station and won 2 tickets to the Thrashers, I opted for the last game of the season against the Pens. It would feature perhaps the single best punch in the history of hockey fights, when Evander Kane decked Matt Cooke with his first blow. My son Miles has yet to be suspended from school for fighting, so I’m supposing my memory of this is probably clearer than his.
Sept. 2010 – Double minor for abuse of a minor
We attended a pre-season rally for the Thrashers with all of the players autographing various collectibles, as well as a silent auction, and other activities. There was an area cordoned off for a youth street hockey game, and of course Miles spent the entire time playing that. Several Thrashers employees (typically males in their 20s) were participating as well. At one point, one of them tried the lacrosse move with the ball on his stick and whacked a 4-5 year old in the face, initiating a fairly voluminous bloody nose. The kid returned later, so he wasn’t too scarred, but he was too scarred to play again.
12/18/2010 – Welcome Back Kovy
My son Miles had three friends to the Thrashers game in our company’s suite for his 7th birthday party. Not only did I get to see my only in-person Thrashers hat trick, it was a 7-1 thrashing of Kovalchuk and the Devils in the year after he had left. And the hat trick was by Eric Boulton, a guy with just 27 goals in 10 seasons to go along with his 1,150 penalty minutes (many of them of the “five for fighting” variety).
2/27/2011 – Oh, I must be in the front row!
A friend who works at a major corporation in town invited Miles and me to a game vs. Toronto with him and his 6-year old son, saying only that they were “good seats.” I guess they were…the CEO’s tickets. On the glass right behind the Thrashers “attack twice” goal. The Thrash eeked out a 3-2 OT win and Blueland showed signs of life again…which I hadn’t been a part of in several years, having been mostly in the corporate suite for a handful of games each year. In addition to the game, we enjoyed perhaps the freshest jalapeno- and cheese-covered nachos in the history of those four seats.
3/25/2011 – Quinn’s Questions
It was my first and only game that I took only my younger son Quinn to just dad and son. We lost to the Canucks 3-1 in a very competitive game, had lower level seats, and enjoyed the father/son thing while playing the little mezzanine hockey games where kids get to shoot and also be goalie. I answered questions about hockey that I hadn’t in years…like why the “court” has so many stripes, and where “all that noise” comes from.
3/27/2011 – Last home points…bookending the Thrashers life in Philips
What an opportunity. The friend who got us into the front row last month did it again. This time I brought a camera, and spent most of the night trying to capture the essence of an NHL game on the front row with my old 5 MP camera. I failed, as there is no substitute for the speed and action from inches off the ice. And after the Thrashers blew a two-goal lead in the last stanza, Andrew Ladd scored to win the shootout to earn their last points on home ice…ever. We had no idea of the pending sale, and am glad we didn’t.
So I got to see the first and last points that the Thrashers earned on home ice. I also read a lot of boxscores, watched a lot of games on TV, and have hats, jerseys, jackets, “collectible” kitsch like a 2008 Thrashers All Star Game Rubik’s Cube, and semi-legitimate autographed memorabilia to show for it. Oh, and one awesome blog entry. And I wouldn’t have changed one thing in hindsight. They may end up being North America’s most anonymous major sports team ever, but they weren’t anonymous to some.
I hope you didn’t count the entries in the list above, I just couldn’t make the necessary edits to get it to 10. Please forgive me.
I am not so sad for myself as I am my sons. My older son is 7 and plays pickup inline hockey, and the younger one is 4 and just got his first pair of skates. One of my complaints about having grown up in northern California was that there was no NHL team (at least until my last year of high school), as I have always loved the sports speed of play and running clock (don’t get me started about NFL and NBA timeouts). I am hopeful that they too will not let hockey fade to black just because their hometown team has left for colder climes.
“I could have missed the pain, but I’d've had to miss the dance.”