I had to laugh a moment ago when I looked at the picture of the Phillips Arena on NHL.com. It was a nice shot of the inside, showing a capacity crowd cheering on their beloved Thrashers. I think they must have superimposed the crowd from the Belle Centre, because what I saw on Versus earlier tonight in no way resembled a full house.
I don’t know why, but earlier I found myself flipping around the high 100’s of my digital cable. In between the Garage Sale Channel and the Do It Yourself Dentistry Channel, I stumbled across Versus. If Fox Sports Net is the "poor man’s" ESPN, then the cable partner of the NHL is the "I live in a third world country and milk camels all day for $0.02" version of ESPN.
I could rattle on all day about Versus, but that is not the point of this article.
Tonight Versus had the Philadelphia Flyers/Atlanta Thrashers game. I am a Flyers fan, so as much as I wanted to find out how to fill my own cavities, I put the flipper down and watched the game. As my eyes followed the puck up and down the ice, I began to notice that there was no one at the game. I’m not exaggerating here. The lower bowl was as empty as a third grade classroom in July.
Now I can understand not filling up the nosebleed seats of the Phillips Arena on a school night in October, but the seats right behind the glass, bench and goals were empty.
What is going on in Atlanta?
It was almost as if the game were one of those South American soccer matches played in empty stadiums to prevent riots. Last time I checked, there have been no major fan uprisings caused by a cheap shot to Eric Boulton. A quick Google search yielded no results for “tear gas at Flyers/Thrashers matches.”
The official attendance was 13,207. That is about 13,000 more people than were actually in the building. Maybe the tickets sold for this game had the wrong date on them, and thousands of people will show up next Wednesday wearing orange sweaters only to find a Dixie Chicks concert.
The NHL needs to do something. According to attendance figures found on TSN.com, tonight’s debacle was the third largest crowd of the year. It’s evident that the people of Atlanta would rather eat hot dogs at the Varsity than attend a Thrashers game.
There has to be some other city out there that could adopt the Thrashers and show them some love. There is talk of a second team in Toronto. Maybe the Thrashers could move there. Toronto Thrashers has a nice ring to it.
The next time Versus airs a Thrashers home game is March 16th. That should give the folks, in the front office, plenty of time to round up some bodies.
Visit Georgia Tech and tell the fraternities there will be scantily clad sorority girls on skates at intermission. Go to a Weight Watchers meeting and tell them there will be free all-you-can-eat buffet. Go to a Trek convention and tell them that the guy who played Worf will be signing phase pistols in the concourse. Do whatever it takes to fill the building for a national TV audience.
But then again, the national TV audience is on Versus, which nobody can find on their cable system anyway.