Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Atlanta Hockey: Part 1: Atlanta Flames

Being a Winnipeg Jets fan, I understand what it's like for a city to loose its team, and wait for years to get it back. Quebec City and Hartford are two cities that have waited almost 20 years for their franchises to get back, Hartford has an AHL franchise, with a decent fan base, but similarly to the Manitoba Moose, it's just not the same. Kansas City, Seattle, Hamilton, Vaughan, Las Vegas and even Halifax have been brought up in possible NHL markets in the future.

One city that is not brought up is Atlanta.

Atlanta has had two attempts at an NHL team, the first started in 1972, the Atlanta Flames.

The Flames were a team who found decent success in 70's hockey, not something most teams can find (The Red Wings, a usual perennial playoff team, made the playoffs twice in the whole decade). The Flames missed the playoffs 3 times in their history, not bad. In 1980, the Flames were relocated to Calgary to become the Flames we know and love today, but

1. Lack of TV appearances

Like the WHA, not being televised nationally hurts a franchise. You don't gain a fan base out side of your city or even within your own city. Atlanta was the first Southern hockey team on the east coast. They were the test market for Southern Fried Hockey, and it wouldn't be until the mid 90's for another NHL team to be in the south (Nashville). Obviously, the 70's TV market was much different than today, there were no NHL cable packages or many tv networks from other regions from the USA or Canada (you couldn't get CBC in Atlanta). If you really wanted to see road Atlanta Flames games, you'd have to go to Minnesota or Toronto.

2. Lack of a star player

You can be good, sure, but do you have a marketable player? Atlanta lacked a Guy Lafleur, Darryl Sittler, Bobby Orr, or a goalie like Ken Dryden, Roggie Vachon or Tony Esposito. Who did they have....Pat Quinn (decent), Dan Bouchard (good, but not great) and not much else. The teams were good, but not great. They didn't have that one player to make people say "oh John Smith, he's the all star on the Flames". Kids wouldn't make the teams in their road hockey games Flames vs. Scouts because who wants to be those players when you can be Bobby Orr and Larry Robinson.

3. Other Atlanta Sports Franchises

Atlanta was one of the first cities in sports to have a team in all 4 major sports leagues, along with a nationally known soccer franchise. The Braves, Hawks, Falcons and Chiefs/Apollos all took away from the Flames publicity. Why go see a hockey game when you can watch an all American football game? The Braves had Hank Aaron, the greatest home run hitting ever! The Falcons, while playing some pretty bad football, played against some big market NFL teams, like the Chiefs, Vikings, Packers, 49ers and Da Bears, so Atlanta fans could see great teams play against a glorified practice squad. The Hawks had Pistol Pete Maravich and were a decent team. Of course, soccer is much bigger in Atlanta, however, the team folded in 1973 and came back in 1979, but still had a following, more so than hockey.

Next time, we'll see what the 2nd Atlanta Franchie 

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