03 June 2011
It never gets easier seeing a team move. No matter what the sport is, there is part of my heart that feels for the dedicated fanbase of the team that is moving - in this case, the Atlanta Thrasher fans. All things considered, hockey has died in Atlanta. Twice. The National Hockey League will never call The Big Peach home again.
While a percentage of fans are burning their Thrashers jerseys and expressing their hate toward Gary Bettman (there were plenty of more issues than Bettman, FYI), the rest of us are waiting in anticipation in what will develop in the city of Winnipeg. Questions cannot be answered fast enough as the floodgates have opened by the press and fans.
- What will be the team name?
- How many season ticket holders do they have so far?
- What will the jerseys look like?
- Will the new owners spend to the cap?
- Will I be able to order Tim Hortons inside the arena?
All these questions will be answered in due time but there is one aspect that hasn’t grabbed national headline:
What are the players going to do?
Sure, every player under contract will pack up their bags and head north but where are their opinions? Who is the brave soul to voice their actual opinion and not a prewritten rosy statement?
I also question when a player under contract is going to capitalize on the once in a generation opportunity. As a player, you are heading into unknown waters. But rather than quietly go through the motions, someone needs to step up to become an instant blast of excitement. Let me explain….
If I was a Winnipeg-Atlanta Thrasher who is under contract for the 2011-2012 season, I would highly consider these off ice moves. (I’m looking at you Evander Kane, Tobias Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien, and Ondrej Pavelec)
1. Thank the city of Atlanta – Thrasher Fans
Take a full page advertisement out of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Use the space to write a letter to the fans and city for their support for the past few seasons. Express that you are disappointed that it didn’t work out and you’re sad to leave the great city. Try to make it personal. I think most people don’t like to uproot and move 1200 miles away.
2. Reach Out to the city of Winnipeg
By use of a Twitter account or Facebook fan page, express your excitement to begin a new chapter in Canadian hockey history and that you’re going to celebrate by holding contests for the fans. Behind closed doors, set your own rules and dates for your contest.
Let there be four prizes. Three of those prizes will be a brand new customizable home or away jersey of the Winnipeg team once they become available. The grand prize will be season tickets for two for the 2011-2012 season.
3. Extend the Olive Branch
Once the contest is over and it nears training camp, reach out once again and have a charity raffle benefiting The Winnipeg Foundation (http://www.wpgfdn.org/index.php). Take a white road jersey and have the entire team sign the jersey (coaches too). Then through your website or the new team website, hold a drive that ensures that 100% of the proceeds of the raffle will go directly to the foundation. This drive will be open to all residents of the United States and Canada. If you can charge $5.00 (Five Dollars) per entry, I’m sure you could easily find yourself donating thousands of dollars to the Winnipeg Foundation. If you would like to use a different Winnipeg charity, that would be fine. However, you have to make sure it impacts Winnipeg.
Following these three steps will lead to a unique buzz within the city and will kick off the franchise on the right foot. With all things I’m suggesting, research and homework are involved. Be sure to work out any legal issues before following through with the steps. The last thing that you need is to bring negativity towards you by way of yellow legal tape. You might even try to work with some fellow teammates to make it a group effort.
The bottom line is that this new franchise cannot fail. If they do, then they’ll be on the next flight to Seattle in the next decade. Not only will the new ownership group be responsible, but some of the players as well. Take a chance and generate some excitement.