Atlanta Thrashers were an American professional ice hockey team
based in Atlanta, Georgia.
Atlanta was granted a franchise in the
National Hockey League
National Hockey League (NHL) on June 25, 1997, and became the League's
28th franchise when it began play in the 1999–2000 NHL season. They
were members of the Southeast Division of the NHL's Eastern
Conference, and played their home games at
Philips Arena in downtown
Atlanta. The Thrashers qualified for the
Stanley Cup playoffs only
once, during the 2006–07 season in which they won the Southeast
Division, but were swept in the first round by the New York Rangers.
In May 2011, the Thrashers were sold to Canadian-based ownership group
True North Sports & Entertainment. The group moved the franchise
to Winnipeg, Manitoba, which became the second incarnation of the
Winnipeg Jets. The sale and relocation were approved by the NHL on
June 21, 2011. With the sale and relocation of the team, Atlanta
became the first city in the NHL's modern era to have two ice hockey
teams relocate to different cities. In both cases, the team moved from
Atlanta to Canada; the city's previous NHL team (the
moved to Calgary, Alberta, in 1980 to become the
1 Franchise history
1.1 2000–03: The early years
1.2 2003–05: The
Atlanta Spirit years and the NHL lockout
1.3 2005–06: Post-lockout
1.4 2006–07: Only taste of success
1.5 2007–10: Struggles
1.6 2010–11: The final season in Atlanta
1.7 Sale and relocation
2 Season-by-season record
3 Team information
4 Players and personnel
4.1 Team captains
4.2 Honored members
4.3 Retired numbers
4.4 General managers
5 Franchise records
5.1 Scoring leaders
5.2 Single-season leaders
6 Awards and trophies
After the departure of the International Hockey League (IHL)'s Atlanta
Knights (1992 to 1996) to become the Quebec Rafales, the city of
Atlanta was awarded an NHL franchise on June 25, 1997, as part of a
four-team tiered expansion. This also included teams in Nashville,
Columbus and St. Paul, in which each new franchise would begin play as
its respective new arena was completed. The birth of the new franchise
marked NHL hockey's return to Georgia, as the
established in 1972, departed for
Canada in 1980 to become the Calgary
Flames. The Flames had been the League's first foray into the southern
U.S., and their failure discouraged further efforts to bring NHL
hockey to the region for another decade.
The nickname "Thrashers," after Georgia's state bird, the brown
thrasher, was selected from a fan poll. "Thrashers" had actually been
runner-up to "Flames" in the poll (as a homage to the old Atlanta
Flames), and Philips Arena, the Thrashers' new home, was built on the
site of the former Omni, which had been home to the Flames. By
coincidence, the first encampment (circa 1839) which would later
Atlanta was called Thrasherville, and a historical marker of
this is located just down from the arena in front of the State Bar of
Georgia (the former home of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta).
2000–03: The early years
The newly formed Thrashers selected Patrik Stefan with the first
overall selection and
Luke Sellars with their 30th overall pick
(second pick of the second round) in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft.
However, the entire
1999 NHL Entry Draft
1999 NHL Entry Draft was a major disappointment
for the Thrashers, as all 11 of their draft picks were out of the NHL
by the team's last season of existence; Stefan played the most games
for the Thrashers from that draft, 414. Their first two picks
(Stefan and Sellars) were called two of the biggest disappointments in
NHL.com listed Stefan as the worst first overall pick
of all-time and Sellars (who played only one NHL game) as the worst
30th overall pick in NHL history. This turn of events was a major
surprise, as not only did the media hype Stefan as a franchise player,
but hockey experts also considered then-Thrashers General Manager Don
Waddell to be a man with excellent scouting ability.
The Thrashers played their first game on October 2, 1999, losing 4–1
to the New Jersey Devils. Captain
Kelly Buchberger scored the
franchise's first goal in the loss and the team went on to finish
their first season in last place in the Southeast Division, with a
record of 14 wins, 61 losses and seven ties for a total of 39 points.
Atlanta had the second overall pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft; this
draft brought better results, as the player chosen with that pick,
Dany Heatley, went on to become one of the team's best players. The
team also had a fine choice in the 2001 Draft, with first overall pick
Ilya Kovalchuk. Both Heatley and Kovalchuk played their first season
in the NHL in 2001–02; both players were named to the NHL All-Rookie
Team and Heatley was awarded the
Calder Memorial Trophy
Calder Memorial Trophy as the
Rookie of the Year.
The early years of the
Atlanta Thrashers saw a sharp increase of
hockey fans in Atlanta. Ticket sales for Thrashers games averaged at
10,000 per night, with many of them being season tickets. The overall
experience of a Thrasher's game was unique compared to other Atlanta
teams. A section of the arena was dedicated to season ticket holders
that called themselves the "Nasty Nest". The "Nasty Nest" would chant
and shout at the opposing team to disrupt them while they played. The
Thrashers also had two Thrasher bird heads that would face opposite to
the scoreboard. The Thrasher heads would open their beaks to reveal a
flamethrower, which would ignite when the team scored a goal. It was
at this time that the franchise adopted a motto "Believe in Blueland"
which was often used in advertising.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (June
Atlanta Spirit years and the NHL lockout
On September 21, 2003, Time Warner, the owners of both the Thrashers
National Basketball Association
National Basketball Association (NBA)'s
Atlanta Hawks, sold
both teams to
Atlanta Spirit, LLC, a group consisting of businessmen
based both in
Atlanta and elsewhere.
Tragedy struck the team just eight days after the sale, as star
Dany Heatley crashed his
Ferrari in a one-car accident that
seriously injured both himself and Thrashers center Dan Snyder.
Heatley suffered a broken jaw and arm, a sprained wrist and a torn
anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL);
Snyder died five days later due to septic shock from his injuries.
The Thrashers dedicated their entire 2003–04 season to Snyder's
memory, and Thrashers players wore black patches with Snyder's number,
37, on their jerseys for the season. Heatley's blood alcohol content
was below the legal limit, but his combination of speeding (he was
driving an estimated 80 miles per hour) and recklessness led to
criminal charges, which were later dropped. He eventually received
three years' probation and community service.
Led by captain Shawn McEachern, the Thrashers jumped quickly out of
the gate with some notable highlights.
Ilya Kovalchuk scored eight
goals in the first seven games, including two hat-tricks, one in a
7–2 rout of the
Chicago Blackhawks and another in a come-from-behind
victory against the Nashville Predators. Those comeback victories
became a recurring sight throughout the season, as
Atlanta pulled off
stunning upsets over the Toronto Maple Leafs,
Boston Bruins and Ottawa
Senators, as well as wins against the
Los Angeles Kings
Los Angeles Kings and New York
Eleven games into the season, the Thrashers were alone in first place
atop both the Southeast Division and the NHL. Although they continued
to play well, they could not keep up with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the
Stanley Cup champions, or other teams in the League. Boxing
Day 2003 marked both a bright and dark day for the Thrashers. On that
day, Heatley skated for the first time since his car accident with
Snyder, but it also marked the last win for the Thrashers before an
extended losing streak. From December 28 to February 11, the team went
a dismal 2–16–3. However, fans were entertained regardless of the
team's struggles. Kovalchuk became only the second Thrashers' player
to score in the NHL All-Star Game (after Heatley).
While the Thrashers' playoff hopes were done for the year, they
finished second in the Southeast Division to Tampa Bay and tenth in
the Eastern Conference, only a handful of wins away from the Stanley
Cup playoffs. Kovalchuk tied for the League lead in goals (41) with
Jarome Iginla and the Columbus Blue Jackets' Rick
Kari Lehtonen began his NHL career with four wins in
four starts, including one shutout.
Before the start of the 2005–06 season, the Thrashers signed several
NHL veterans in the hopes of making the playoffs, including forwards
Bobby Holik and Scott Mellanby, defenseman Jaroslav Modry and
goaltender Mike Dunham. At the same time, however, they lost one of
their brightest stars, as Heatley requested a trade in an attempt to
leave behind memories of his tragic 2003 car accident. He was
eventually swapped to the
Ottawa Senators in exchange for Marian Hossa
(a four-time 30-goal scorer at the time of the trade) and Greg de
The 2005–06 season saw the Thrashers win a club-record 41 games,
even with numerous goaltending injuries. Only a few minutes into the
first game of the season,
Kari Lehtonen pulled his groin, an injury
that would keep him out for a good portion of the season. Veteran
backup Mike Dunham, an experienced number-one netminder, stepped in,
but also promptly injured himself only a few games later; this left
Michael Garnett and
Adam Berkhoel to tend goal.
Journeyman goaltender Steve Shields was signed, but he too was injured
within ten games. On April 6, Lehtonen was run into by Tampa Bay's
Chris Dingman, injuring him yet again. The remainder of the season was
left to Dunham. Garnett was injured in a game against the Washington
Capitals. Dunham, who had started the game but was relieved by the
young rookie after poor play, was forced back into action in the third
2006–07: Only taste of success
2006–07 NHL season
2006–07 NHL season and 2006–07 Atlanta
Philips Arena honoring the Thrashers' sole division
championship in 2006–2007.
The Thrashers' 2006–07 season began with the highest expectations in
franchise history, even after the team's second-leading scorer, Marc
Savard, departed as a free agent for the Boston Bruins. Veteran center
Niko Kapanen and
Jon Sim were acquired in an effort to
make up for the Savard loss. With NHL superstars Marian Hossa and Ilya
Kovalchuk, as well as a healthy goaltender in Kari Lehtonen, the
Thrashers clinched their first (and only) playoff berth, winning the
Southeast Division title with 43 wins and claiming the third seed in
the Conference and home-ice advantage in the first round of the
playoffs. However, they were eliminated from the playoffs on April 18,
being swept by the
New York Rangers
New York Rangers in four-straight games in the
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
This season was the highest attended the Thrashers ever had, with
every home playoff game sold out as well as the season opening and
closing games. The team was gaining notoriety within the league for
their playoff debut, and team popularity within
Atlanta reached an
all-time high. Even Hip-Hop artist Lil Jon expressed his support for
Atlanta Thrashers by wearing a Thrashers jersey while posing with
the Stanley Cup. After this season, the Thrasher's ticket sales would
start dwindling due to the housing market crash of 2008, and a stale
economy in Atlanta. Although the ticket sales dropped, the fans
remained loyal throughout the decline of the team.
Just months after reaching the playoffs for the first time, the
Thrashers began the 2007–08 season 0–6. Consequently, they fired
Bob Hartley on October 17, 2007, with General Manager Don
Waddell taking over behind the bench on an interim basis. The
Thrashers ended the season with only 76 points, finishing 14th in the
On January 27, 2008, the Thrashers hosted the NHL All-Star Game at
Philips Arena, matching the Eastern Conference All-Stars against the
Western Conference All-Stars. The game had originally been scheduled
for the 2004–05 season, but the
NHL lockout of that year, followed
by the 2006 Winter Olympics the following season and the Dallas Stars'
hosting of the 2007 NHL All-Star Game, made 2008 the earliest
available date. The Eastern Conference won the game 8–7, with former
Marc Savard scoring the game winner late in the third period.
Although he was a member of the Bruins, the
Atlanta crowd cheered
Savard the entire night.
On June 20, 2008, John Anderson was named as the fourth head coach in
Thrashers history. In his first season, the Thrashers matched their
previous season with 76 points, while finishing 13th in the Eastern
Atlanta Spirit, LLC, the team's ownership
group, was coming apart at the seams. A dispute between Steve Belkin
and his seven fellow owners dated back to 2005; Belkin claimed the
other owners breached their contract, giving him the right to buy them
out at cost, while his partners said they should be able to buy out
Belkin's 30% stake. On November 3, court proceedings began in Maryland
to decide the group's fate.
In the final year of his contract,
Ilya Kovalchuk and the Thrashers
could not come to an agreement on an extension. General Manager Don
Waddell reportedly offered 12-year, $101 million and seven-year, $70
million contracts, both of which Kovalchuk turned down. Rather than
potentially losing him to free agency in the off-season, the team
traded Kovalchuk on February 4, 2010, to the New Jersey Devils.
Atlanta received defenseman Johnny Oduya, rookie forward Niclas
Bergfors, junior prospect
Patrice Cormier and a first-round pick in
2010 NHL Entry Draft
2010 NHL Entry Draft in exchange for Kovalchuk and defenseman
Anssi Salmela; the teams also traded second-round selections in 2010.
The Thrashers finished tenth in the Conference, with 83 points, which
would be the most points they had earned in a regular season from the
time they won the division title in 2006–07 to the team's eventual
relocation in the summer of 2011.
2010–11: The final season in Atlanta
On April 14, 2010, three days after the finish of the 2009–10 season
and after two unsuccessful attempts at making the playoffs, the
contracts of Head Coach John Anderson and his coaching staff were not
renewed. General Manager
Don Waddell was promoted to president of
hockey operations, while former Assistant General Manager Rick Dudley
took Waddell's place as general manager. This was the only general
manager change in Thrashers history.
Dudley made his first trade on June 23, 2010, involving nine players
and draft picks, with the Chicago Blackhawks. The Thrashers received
Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager,
Brent Sopel and
Akim Aliu in exchange for
Marty Reasoner, Joey Crabb, Jeremy Morin, the Devils' first-round pick
(#24 overall) in 2010 and the Devils' second-round pick (#54 overall)
in 2010. Later, the Thrashers also traded for Blackhawk Andrew Ladd
while sending prospect Ivan Vishnevskiy and a draft pick to Chicago.
The Blackhawks, the 2010
Stanley Cup champions, found it necessary to
trade players for prospects and picks as they were in difficulty with
the salary cap.
The next day, the team named
Craig Ramsay as the team's new head
coach. Ramsay, who had been an assistant coach for the Boston Bruins
for the previous three seasons, was a former NHL player who had been a
teammate of Rick Dudley's on the Buffalo Sabres. In the following
weeks, the Thrashers hired an associate coach, John Torchetti, and an
assistant coach, Mike Stothers. The team also hired
Clint Malarchuk as
a goaltending consultant.
The Thrashers' last win came against the New York Rangers, 3-0 at
Madison Square Garden
Madison Square Garden on April 7, 2011. On April 10, 2011, the
Thrashers played their last game in
Atlanta against the Pittsburgh
Tim Stapleton scored the last goal in Thrashers history in a
5–2 loss to Pittsburgh. The final NHL goal scored in Philips Arena
was tallied by the Penguins' Mike Comrie, an empty net goal and his
first of the season.
Sale and relocation
Due to financial losses and ownership struggles, the team was
frequently a target of relocation rumors. In later years, reports saw
the team courted by suitors intending to relocate to Kansas City;
Quebec City; Hamilton, Ontario, or Winnipeg. On January 22,
2011, the team's ownership group claimed it had lost US$130 million in
the last six years, partially as a result of an ongoing lawsuit with
former partner Steve Belkin. In February 2011, majority owner
Michael Gearon stated that the team would be seeking new
investors. Various local groups announced their intent to purchase
the franchise and keep it in Atlanta, but ultimately the team
was sold to the Canadian group True North Sports & Entertainment.
Wikinews has related news:
Atlanta Thrashers sold to True North Sports
and Entertainment, moving to Winnipeg
On May 16, the
Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that talks for a
sale to True North Sports & Entertainment were underway.
According to The Globe and Mail, a deal was finalized on May 20, 2011,
to relocate the team to Winnipeg. The League later denied the
report, but acknowledged that advanced negotiations between the two
teams were underway and that
Gary Bettman supported
the move. Draft schedules were prepared that accommodated for the
team's move to Winnipeg, as True North sought to move the American
Hockey League (AHL) team that played in Manitoba, eventually moving
that team to St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, in Atlantic
On May 31, 2011, True North Sports & Entertainment and the NHL
held a press conference in
Winnipeg to announce the completion of a
deal to purchase the Thrashers. True North intended to relocate the
team to the
MTS Centre in
Winnipeg and on June 21, 2011, both the sale
and relocation of the team were formally approved by the NHL's Board
of Governors. The
Atlanta Spirit Group, however, retained the rights
and logos for the Thrashers.
This is a partial list of the last five seasons completed by the
Thrashers. For the full season-by-season history, see List of Atlanta
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTL =
Overtime Losses, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against
Lost in Conference Quarterfinals, 0–4 (Rangers)
Did not qualify
Did not qualify
Did not qualify
Did not qualify
The Thrashers' colors were ice blue, navy blue, red and gold. In 2003,
the NHL decided to switch home and road jerseys colors. In 2007,
Reebok released new team jerseys as part of the rollout of the Reebok
Edge Uniform System. Only the piping changed for the Thrashers'
Atlanta unveiled its new third jersey, red and midnight blue
with white and gold trim, on October 10, 2008.
The team's mascot was Thrash, a brown thrasher, which also is the
official state bird of Georgia.
Players and personnel
Kelly Buchberger, 1999–2000
Steve Staios, 2000–2001
Ray Ferraro, 2001–2002
Shawn McEachern, 2002–2004
Scott Mellanby, 2005–2007
Bobby Holik, 2007–2008
Ilya Kovalchuk, 2009–2010
Andrew Ladd, 2010–2011
Hall of Famers:
Chris Chelios, D, 2010, inducted 2013
Mark Recchi, RW, 2007–2008, inducted 2017
Atlanta Thrashers retired numbers
Date of retirement
February 6, 2000
(No banner at Philips Arena)
1 No. 99 was retired league-wide by the NHL in 2000 to honor Wayne
Gretzky. The Thrashers never officially retired any numbers. No. 37
was unofficially taken out of circulation after the death of Thrasher
Dan Snyder in September 2003.
These are the top-ten point, goal, and assist scorers in franchise
Note: Pos = Position; GP = Games Played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts =
Points; P/G = Points per game; G/G = Goals per game; A/G = Assists per
Most goals in a season: Ilya Kovalchuk, 52 (2005–06, 2007–08)
Most assists in a season: Marc Savard, 69 (2005–06)
Most points in a season: Marian Hossa, 100 (2006–07)
Most penalty minutes in a season: Jeff Odgers, 226 (2000–01)
Most goals in a season, defenseman: Dustin Byfuglien, 20 (2010–11)
Most points in a season, defenseman: Dustin Byfuglien, 53 (2010–11)
Most goals in a season, rookie: Ilya Kovalchuk, 29 (2001–02)
Most assists in a season, rookie: Dany Heatley, 41 (2001–02)
Most points in a season, rookie: Dany Heatley, 67 (2001–02)
Most wins in a season: Kari Lehtonen, 34 (2006–07)
Awards and trophies
Calder Memorial Trophy
Dany Heatley: 2001–02
Rocket Richard Trophy
Ilya Kovalchuk: 2003–04 (shared with
Jarome Iginla of the Calgary
Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets)
The Georgia’s Own Credit Union 3 Stars of the Year Award was awarded
annually to the Thrashers player amassing the most number of points
throughout the season by being named as one of the three stars of each
game. The award was created in the Thrashers' inaugural season of
2010–11: Ondrej Pavelec, goaltender
2009–10: Johan Hedberg, goaltender
2008–09: Ilya Kovalchuk, forward
2007–08: Ilya Kovalchuk, forward
2006–07: Marian Hossa, forward
2005–06: Marian Hossa, forward
2004–05: Not awarded due to NHL lockout
2003–04: Ilya Kovalchuk, forward
2002–03: Dany Heatley, forward
2001–02: Dany Heatley, forward, and Milan Hnilicka, goaltender
2000–01: Ray Ferraro, forward
1999–2000: Ray Ferraro, forward
The giant fire-breathing birdheads at Philips Arena, lit when the
players were introduced before the game and when the Thrashers scored
Atlanta Thrashers were broadcast on cable television on SportSouth
and Fox Sports South. Radio coverage included play-by-play of all
games on 680 The Fan in Atlanta. The station was the flagship of a
network that included 18 stations. Most were in Georgia, but there
were two affiliates in
South Carolina and one in Scottsboro, Alabama.
The radio play-by-play voice for the first season was Scott Ferrall,
followed by Dan Kamal.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to
^ "NHL Board unanimous on
Winnipeg sale, relocation". NHL.com. June
21, 2011. Retrieved June 21, 2011.
^ "Thrasherville historical marker".
Atlanta Thrashers Draft History at Hockey Database". Archived from
the original on 2010-06-11.
^ Kreiser, John (2009-06-15). "The best picks ever, No. 1-30".
NHL.com. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
^ "A Sadness In Atlanta". Sports Illustrated. 2003-10-13. Retrieved
^ "Felony charge dropped for Thrashers star's plea". 2005-02-05.
^ "Thrashers to
Winnipeg rumour wishful thinking". 2010-02-17.
^ a b "Group wants to move
Atlanta Thrashers to Hamilton". The Star.
Toronto. 2009-05-09. Retrieved 2011-02-28.
^ "LAWSUIT CLAIMS THRASHERS HAVE LOST US$130 MILLION SINCE '05".
2011-01-22. Retrieved 2011-01-23.
^ "Sense of urgency faces
Atlanta Thrashers ownership group".
2011-02-16. Retrieved 2011-01-24. [permanent dead link]
^ "Filmmaker Stephen Rollins interested in Thrashers". 2011-02-17.
^ Ozanian, Mike (2011-05-02). "
Atlanta Thrashers Will Likely Be Sold
For $110 Million". Forbes.
Atlanta Spirit, True North in negotiations about Thrashers sale,
^ Brunt, Stephen (2011-05-22). "
Atlanta Thrashers moving to Winnipeg".
The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Archived from the original on 20 May
2011. Retrieved 2011-05-19.
^ Zwolonski, Mark and Kevin McGran (2011-05-20).
Winnipeg not complete, parties insist. Toronto Star. Retrieved
^ Lawless, Gary (2011-05-17). Few hurdles to potential Thrashers sale
Winnipeg Archived May 22, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.. Montreal
Gazette. Retrieved 2011-05-20.
^ Short, Robin (2011-05-24). AHL return waiting on first ’Peg. St.
John's Telegram. Retrieved 2011-05-24.
^ Thrashers' move to
Winnipeg approved ESPN
^ "Thrashers Unveil Third Jerseys". 2008-10-08. Archived from the
original on 9 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-10. , including a
photo timeline of Thrashers jerseys.
^ "Gretzky's number retired before All-Star Game", Sports Illustrated,
7 February 2000
Founded in 1999
Based in Atlanta, Georgia
Relocated to Winnipeg,
Manitoba to become the
Winnipeg Jets in 2011
Draft picks (Expansion draft)
Links to related articles
Atlanta Thrashers seasons
1990–91 . 1991–92 . 1992–93 . 1993–94 . 1994–95 . 1995–96
. 1996–97 . 1997–98 . 1998–99 . 1999–00
Founded in 1999
Based in Winnipeg, Manitoba
Draft picks (Expansion draft)
True North Sports & Entertainment (Mark Chipman, chairman)
Bell MTS Place
TSN Radio (1290 AM)
Winnipeg Jets (original)
Mick E. Moose
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