As I was scrolling through the ProHockeyTalk blog, I saw two articles that annoyed me to no end, and both have to do with the Winnipeg Jets.
Let me get this out first: I think by now you’ve deduced that my team is the Chicago Blackhawks. However, it was the Atlanta Thrashers that introduced me to hockey. Without them, I wouldn’t have turned on the TV on February 20, 2011 to watch the Blackhawks play the Penguins. They’ll always have a place in my heart, and I get defensive when someone downplays the whole relocation mess.
Anyway, the first of the two articles was about the “culture shock” that the former Thrashers would experience once they settled into the City That Fun (and Spring) Forgot. The guys would be going from a world of near anonymity to one of being seen and hounded everywhere they go. Bryan Little’s already been mobbed at the airport (they have an airport?) but thinks it’ll get better. Good luck with that, honey.
What made me seethe was this line:
The change of going from playing in front of mostly apathetic crowds in Atlanta…
Um, hi, Emma is from Atlanta, and she can tell you that Blueland was/is anything but apathetic. You know who was? Atlanta Spirit Group and city government. Go talk to them about apathy when it comes to sports teams other than the Falcons.
Oh, and would you kindly stop assuming that Zach Bogosian will sign with the team? That’s getting really old, really fast.
The other article really got under my skin. It talks about how both Ondrej Pavelec and Chris Mason are in “contract years,” or the last year of their current contract. It implies that they’ll use this season to show GM Kevin Cheveldayoff (must refrain from calling him a turncoat because he was the Blackhawks assistant GM till he left for that place) that they deserve to be re-signed. The article goes into praising Pavs for his performance in the first half of the past season despite passing out at net, while saying that he’ll have to be consistent if he wants to stay with the team. Mason had bad numbers but could find himself another team anyway, so all that matters is that he gets to play at some point so he can rack up a respectable save percentage (like .892 is good compared to Pavs’ .914, hmph). Oh, and let’s throw in a goalie coming into training camp on what seems like a courtesy tryout contract, hmm? Just to make things more fun.
At this point, I’d read enough. I get the sense from the tone of these two articles that the roster is going to be treated like roughly two dozen head of cattle – mere entities honed to play hockey, only there to entertain the citizens of Winnipeg and make them feel superior now that they “have hockey back in town.” I had the feeling that they wouldn’t treat these guys like actual men who have lives and families. I have this vision in my head of Pavs begging to be traded halfway through the season because he can’t stand the isolation and being treated like – dare I say it – the property of True North Sports and Entertainment instead of a human being. It’s awful to think of that, but articles like these just fuel those worst-case scenarios for me.
One more thing. Last night I told Emma about a thought that had been bubbling in my head for about a day: why hasn’t anyone interviewed Pavs about the relocation? Don’t tell me it’s because he’s in Kladno, that’s crap. I’m wondering if he’s been interviewed already, but he’s expressed some displeasure with the situation and has been quietly told not to take any more interviews. Just a thought and an opinion.
Let me close by using this macro to sum up my feelings:
Yo, this is Emma. I feel like the guest rapper on an already high-quality rap song right now, but I need to say this stuff.
People sometimes ask me if I can be a Jets fan. It’s the same team, they say. It actually isn’t; there were some free agents who left and they’ve been signing other people, mostly guys with Manitoba heritage. But one big reason it can’t be the same team is because it’s not in the same city anymore. I can’t go to games and practices like I used to anymore. The emotional connections–if you deny emotional connections to your favorite team, you’re a robot because we all have them, whether or not we’re cognizant of them yet–have been severed. Sadly, that’s not my team anymore and it breaks my heart to think about because these are the men who taught me to love the sport.
The other reason I can’t be a Jets fan is stuff like this. The press and fans up there treat Atlanta like it’s some sort of backwoods backwater that no one has ever heard of before. Thing is, Atlanta is the capital of Georgia, an internationally-known destination and an Olympics host city. Because of its status as a hub for Delta, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport frequently tops or floats around the top of lists for the world’s busiest airports. Companies with worldwide presences, like Coca-Cola, UPS, Delta and The Home Depot, make their headquarters here. Atlanta has its problems. I will not deny that. But if you asked people to describe something they know about Atlanta, they’d probably be able to name at least one thing. To quote Anchorman, we’re kind of a big deal.
But if the Jets and their addenda (press, fans, etc.) were hoping for Thrashers fans to follow their beloved team up north, they’re doing a piss-poor job of it by constantly insulting us in ways like this. I refuse to affiliate with a club that treats me this way just because of where I’m from and who I like. They basically kidnapped some of my favorite players and everyone acts like it’s the best thing that could ever happen to them. Well, I refuse to buy into that narrative and I will call it out until my mouth goes dry and my hands go numb–and then even beyond that point.
The league may prefer to see sellout crowds in a smaller stadium in a city whose population pales in comparison to the more than 5 million people who call the greater Atlanta area home, and Gary Bettman wanted to be someone’s golden boy and know he could go somewhere where he wouldn’t be met with a chorus of booing. They’ve made that bed, so they will need to lie in it, but I won’t don my pajamas and get in with them on that. I’m too busy wearing black and yellow pajamas anyway. At least Boston fans were nice, didn’t insult me and were willing to let me into their circles.