Rally supports Thrashers in Atlanta
About 200 fans of the Atlanta Thrashers showed up for a rally Saturday in the face of expectations the team will move to Winnipeg.
"The people I talked to are passionate," CBC News reporter Lyndsay Duncombe said from the parking area near Philips Arena, home of the NHL team.
"There is a sense of resigned disappointment here. I do think a lot of these folks believe this could be the last time they get together with these jerseys on in the hot Atlanta sun."
Saturday was also select-a-seat day for season ticket holders.
One woman said she made her seat selection on the hopes the team would stay.
CBC News also spoke to locals in a park — near the arena — and learned that even though Atlanta has a strong baseball and football fan base, people knew about the hockey team and the possibility it could move north.
"But most people said hockey is just not something that really touches the consciousness of people in Atlanta," Duncombe said. "One woman said she was scared of a puck zooming on the ice and didn't want to go to the arena because she thought it would be cold in there."
Organizers of the rally said Friday they know it could be a futile effort, but they wanted to show support for the team.
"We're going to go have a good time and hang out with our hockey family," Lisa Lewis, president of the Thrashers fan club, said. "If it's our last time, well, at least we get that chance."
On Friday Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz said it was just a matter of time before a deal was announced which would see the Atlanta team sold.
Published reports have said negotiations are underway with Winnipeg-based True North Sports and Entertainment Ltd.
Winnipeg lost its NHL team in 1996 when the Jets moved to Phoenix and were renamed the Coyotes.
The Thrashers owners, known as Atlanta Spirit, claim $130 million in losses since 2005 and have made it clear they no longer want the NHL team, which has made the playoffs only once in 11 seasons and ranked 28th out of 30 teams in attendance this year.
Duncombe some people also expressed some anger that, if the team does move, it would be the second time an NHL franchise went north, recalling the move of the Atlanta Flames to Calgary in 1980.
"Actually, one of the mascots, when he found out I lived in Winnipeg, sort of pretended to tackle me," Duncombe said.
With files from The Associated Press