Minnesotan assembles a list of the Best and Worst Fans of the NHL, ranked from #30 to #1.
He's already pissed off several fan bases, it appears, ranging from the disciples of the Carolina Hurricanes to the beleaguered fans of the Detroit Red Wings. I'm not really interested in where Atlanta ranks (#26) or where anyone else ranks, for that matter. What interests and appalls me is that commentators like Derek Felska (Minnesotan's name) talk about fan attendance and "hockey markets" in a vacuum, as if there are no external factors that influence fan turn-out or local press coverage.
OF COURSE it's significant that Atlanta, Florida, Carolina, Phoenix etc. are "non-traditional hockey markets" somewhat unused to the game. And of course a losing record will keep fans away in a town where the press doesn't cover the hockey team very well. But this kind of "analysis" fails to take into account non-hockey factors like the state of the economy, the decline of newspaper readership and the downsizing caused by it, and the nearly parallel decline of local radio markets vis-a-vis satellite's world conquest. This holds true especially in a place like Detroit, where decades of economic decay have put a few dents in the Red Wings' attendance. But since the economic problems Detroit has faced for a long time now have become the entire country's problems, I suspect ticket sales around the country will take a serious hit this season. Not that they haven't taken a hit in the last few.
Perhaps the AJC would cover the Thrashers more if people still bought newspapers. Hockey is never going to be as big as college football around here; even if the Thrashers won the Stanley Cup the majority of the sports coverage would still go the Bulldogs. That's just a cultural difference between the American South and, say, Ontario. Atlanta does have plenty of hockey fans living in and around the metro area, though, and they would be more than enough to subsidize the AJC's coverage of the Thrashers if newspaper weren't in such a bad way right now. More than in a bad way; they're on an irreversible decline. As newspapers dry up, so dries up Thrashers coverage in the traditional media. The same is true of radio.
But there's hope, hockey fans. You see, I've heard about this new invention called the Internet, and I'm aware there's a serious market for hockey coverage thereabouts. I suggest you look into it.