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NHL Commissioner Gives Interview To AJC One Day Before Approval Of Thrashers Sale

It what might be the greatest level of procrastination known to mankind, Gary Bettman finally spoke to someone from the Atlanta news media regarding the sale and relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers. It's not a pleasant interview. Frankly, I have gotten more emotion out of a turnip than I got out of reading what Bettman answered to the AJC's Chris Vivlamore. In comparison, his taciturn interview with McLean's reads like a Nicholas Sparks novel.

I'd like to offer some sort of in-depth analysis of the interview, but there's not enough actual meat there to write a flowing, understandable post. Bettman apparently only speaks in one sentence thoughts. Riviting. So, instead of a normal post, here're the best quotes and my translation of them.

Over the last few years I’ve been in Atlanta a couple of times. The situation is not comparable to Phoenix because the league actually owns that franchise. Also, Atlanta had retained the services of a widely respected investment banking firm (the Raine Group) in an attempt to secure a buyer. In Phoenix, we were acting as the owner.

Translation: The Atlanta Spirit Group hired the same firm responsible for helping move the Seattle Supersonics to Oklahoma City, so we didn't feel the need to interfere. We figured that they had it all under control.

We try to avoid relocation and in this case it was unavoidable. It was announced within hours of the agreement being reached. It was possible a deal would not have gotten done by next season.

Translation: We had to hurry up and get this done fast or else Mr. Chipman would have been very unhappy with me. No one likes Mark when he's angry.

Obviously, lots of factors came into play. I don’t want to suggest that ownership wasn’t one of those factors. However, I don’t think it is fair to suggest that it was the only reason.

Translation: The fans suck because they wouldn't support a sub-par product year in and year out that was owned by a disinterested ownership group. They needed to follow a more discerning franchise's model of attendance, like Toronto's.

The purpose of the $60 million relocation was an attempt to encourage a local sale at a lower price. Obviously, it benefits the league. However, the practical effect would be to encourage a sale at a lower place. By requiring such a relocation fee, we were creating a lower than market value price for an NHL franchise for someone to buy it and keep it in Atlanta.

Translation: I really, really hope that someone believes this, but I have a strange feeling that no matter how much economic and sales theory I try to pitch, people still can see through the fact that we told a bazillionaire that he had to give us an extra Loonie to move this team. And hey, we wanted a cushion in case that beer settlement didn't work out.

We are really unhappy that it came to this point for our fans in Atlanta.

This one sentence is all I can manage to think of right now, because I keep getting hounded by angry e-mails from folks who want the team to be named the Jets, and for their history to come back to Winnipeg, and from the CEO of Molson-Coors saying he's going to have the Habs sign Zenon Konopka if I don't fix this lawsuit.

Anyone want a beer?


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Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.