From general manager to coach to team president, Waddell endured the ups and downs _ mostly downs _ as the franchise struggled on and off the ice.
After 13 years and only one playoff appearance that produced no wins, Tuesday was the day for Waddell and Atlanta to finally say goodbye to its second hockey team.
“We’ve been through the emotions and the frustrations the last few weeks, but when I look back and being there 13 years, it’s been a great run,” said Waddell, who served as general manager from the start until the 2009-10 season. “Since ‘98 when I got hired, there are only four general managers that are currently with their teams.
“You’ve got to look at the positives. To be able to stay in one place for so long, it’s been tremendous for me.”
“Obviously, everybody is sorry and distressed and unhappy that we found ourselves in the circumstance where our franchise was leaving Atlanta,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “We’re particularly sorry for the fans that are there, but obviously based on the reception that we’ve gotten, everybody is extremely excited about the opportunities in Winnipeg for our return.”
The sale is reportedly for $170 million, including a $60 million relocation fee that will be split by the rest of the owners. The Thrashers are the fifth NHL team to move since Bettman became commissioner in 1993.
Following the Flames, who moved to Calgary 31 years ago, the Thrashers are the second NHL team to leave Atlanta. Those clubs are also the last two teams to relocate to Canada. Seven of the league’s 30 teams reside north of the border.
“It’s a sad day for hockey fans in Atlanta, but the franchise is going to a good place and run by good people,” Waddell said. “Sports in general have been tough in Atlanta. I can’t say (hockey) is finished forever … but they’ve had two tries at it now and it’s been difficult for all ownership groups to make it work.
“College football in the South is like hockey in Canada. It’s the number one sport. When UGA plays football on a Saturday, the party starts on Thursday. We’ve got a lot of competition in the marketplace.”
The NHL is giving up an American market that has more than 5 million people in the metro Atlanta area and heading to Winnipeg, which will be the league’s smallest market with the smallest arena.
The team will play in the 15,015-seat MTS Center, but in a wave of enthusiasm, the club sold-out 13,000 season tickets in a matter of minutes earlier this month once they were made available days after the sale was announced.View Entire Story
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