September 23, 2011
Trending Topics is a column that looks at the week in hockey according to Twitter. If you're only going to comment to say how stupid Twitter is, why not just go have a good cry for the slow, sad death of your dear internet instead?
"It's funny, I feel like the NHL is missing something.
Watching these preseason games I've seen teams like Boston and Toronto and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and Detroit. But there's this nagging feeling I can't shake.
I remember watching a bunch of games last year that featured this team in Atlanta. The Thrashers, I think they were called. Had a couple good players. Dustin Byfuglien(notes). Andrew Ladd(notes). I think even Evander Kane(notes). Not a very good team, but I think someone needs to call the cops: they're missing.
Not the players, though. I mean they're all accounted for. The team, though, seems to have disappeared. Hope someone looks into that. Luckily, the league just happened to have an expansion team starting up operations and, to avoid all the hassle of a player dispersal draft and all that, they just transferred all the Thrashers contracts over. Nice of them to do that.
These Winnipeg Jets — where have I heard that name before? — seem to be really quite something. After all, they sent out their A-plus squad to take on a bunch of Columbus' AHL players and prospects in their first-ever preseason game and beat the absolute tar out of them. People went ballistic. A banner first day for the franchise.
Seems weird that they're apparently going to be playing in the Southeast Division this year though.
Wait, what's this? After doing a quick web search it seems that the Thrashers haven't gone missing, and the Jets aren't an expansion team! Weirder still, it seems that the Thrashers simply moved to Winnipeg and became the Jets over the summer. Man, that was a confusing couple of minutes. Anyway I sure am anxious to see how the Jets do in their new city and I wish them all the success in the world."
The above was an internal monologue that no one on earth has ever had. That's because everyone who has paid even the slightest bit of attention this summer knows the Jets moved from Atlanta. And yet, that's the exact type of attitude that the Jets would like you to have.
"A Western Canadian hockey team that used to be based in Atlanta?" they seem to say at every turn. "No no, friend, you're thinking of Calgary."
For some reason, the True North people who now own the newly-moved Atlanta franchise that began playing in the NHL in 1999 are doing their damnedest to whitewash all record of the Atlanta Thrashers from memory. They did this by not only gutting the front office and coaching staff with a blowtorch, but also by repeatedly having their Twitter feed refer to the franchise's first-ever so-and-so and any such event as "history." History for the 2011 Jets, sure. Not history for the franchise. It turns out a long-time minor-league tough guy named Barry Dreger scored the first-ever preseason goal in franchise history. He did it wearing a Thrashers sweater on Sept. 11, 1999, against the Blue Jackets Nashville Predators.
Frankly, it's appallingly arrogant to continually try to convince hockey fans — who tend to have longer memories about things than, say, basketball or football fans — that a team that existed four months ago was all somehow a function of their imaginations.
Worse, the media not only in Winnipeg itself, which has been positively disgusting in the way it's fawned over the city's freshly-acquired team, is parrotting True North's company line. (While wholly failing to note that the way in which the Thrashers were spirited away from Atlanta was not unlike the griping they'd been doing for more than a decade about the way the Jets left town in the first place.)
The Winnipeg Free Press, ostensibly still trying to function as an objective reporter-of-the-news and not a cheerleader, couldn't contain its glee. Coverage of the successful first preseason game at MTS Centre — and again, not in team history — was frought with sappy sentimentality about the Jets "returning to the NHL" as if they ever went anywhere besides Phoenix and lethal doses of civic pride. TSN and the Associated Press has heralded the Jets' "return" as well.
Of course, all this would be a lot easier to swallow if True North had been able to achieve its actual goal, buying the Phoenix Coyotes. At least they used to be the Jets. This is the equivalent of buying an alligator when you wanted a dinosaur, calling it a dinosaur, then having people so desparate to see a dinosaur write in newspapers and say on TV that you have actually brought back an ankylosaurus.
But True North settled. Instead of fulfilling what they clearly felt was some sort of destiny, they pounced on the first available team and tried to pass it off as being in some way related to one a handful of people loved a decade and a half ago. Case in point: the bizarre debate over whether Evander Kane should be able to wear the No. 9 jersey Bobby Hull made famous in the same city. Of course he should, since this isn't the same franchise. No one raised kicked up a stink when Brent Burns(notes) wore former North Stars great Bill Goldsworthy's No. 8 for the Wild, because it would have been patently stupid to do so.
Fortunately, hockey fans will be reminded of who the Jets were 82 times this season (and only that many). No amount sellout crowds of 15,004, tearful prose or denying the team's past will change the fact that the on-ice product is going to the same as it was last year and the year before and every other season before that since 1999: ugly.
Pearls of Biz-dom
BizNasty on popularity: "If I unblocked all the losers I've blocked on twitter since I started I might have more followers than Beiber."
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