Atlanta, Georgia features the unfortunate distinction of being the only city to lose not one, but two, NHL franchises in the NHL’s modern era. The Atlanta Flames called the city home from 1972-1980 until moving north to become the Calgary Flames.
Fun fact, they were called the Atlanta Flames in reference to General Sherman’s burning of the city of Atlanta during the Civil War. Not necessarily a great choice, but the name works for Calgary.
More recently, there were the Atlanta Thrashers from 1999-2011 before they also moved north to become the second version of the Winnipeg Jets.
The Thrashers’ greatest accomplishments were a division championship in 2006-2007 and having rapper Lil Jon among their fans (before he changed his affiliation to the Vegas Golden Knights).
The ECHL’s Atlanta Gladiators are paying tribute to the Atlanta Thrashers.
Losing the Thrashers might be the saddest moment in recent Atlanta sports history until you bring up the Atlanta Falcons blowing a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl.
The Thrashers are coming back! No, the NHL isn’t making a third attempt at the city (although it might work out better than the Arizona Coyotes). The area’s ECHL franchise, the Atlanta Gladiators, recently announced the team is becoming the Thrashers for one night only.
If you have a Thrashers jersey buried in your closet under your Braves, Falcons, and Hawks jerseys, now is the time to break it out.
Since leaving Atlanta, the Thrashers have become a niche viral meme. A parody Twitter account comments on Atlanta sports happenings and NHL events such as the draft and trade deadline.
Former NHL player and current broadcaster Anson Carter recently bought into the Gladiators ownership group. Although Carter never spent his playing days in Atlanta, he lives in the area and is passionate about growing hockey in the community the NHL ducked out of not once, but twice.
Minor league hockey is long known for its fun and unique gimmicks, and “Thrashers night” seems like the perfect fit for greater Atlanta hockey fans.
The Gladiators should also make some attempt to include the city’s original franchise the Flames. Even after the franchise moved to Calgary, some Atlanta Flames players stayed in the area since they enjoyed living there so much.
The Gladiators might not be able to rebrand themselves as the Atlanta Flames, considering the name is still used by a current NHL franchise, but maybe have a few old players there to sign autographs, do the ceremonial puck drop, and reminisce about the NHL’s first attempt at hockey in the Deep South.
The Gladiators become the Thrashers on December 16th. The Thrashers mascot, Thrash, is confirmed to be in attendance as per the team’s press release. No word yet on if the famous flaming bird head will make an appearance.