No one is more anxious to officially learn the fate of the Atlanta Thrashers than members of the team.
The players have been given no indication one way or the other where they’ll be playing home games next season, according to goaltender Chris Mason.
“They’re not going to include us in any of the stuff and we shouldn’t be either,” Mason said Friday from his off-season home in Red Deer, Alta. “We’ll know probably the same time or after everybody else knows, that’s the way it goes.
“We’re sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to see what’s going to happen, too.”
While one agent indicated that some Thrashers have been quietly told to make new real estate plans, Mason hasn’t heard anything.
The 35-year-old signed a two-year lease on a place after agreeing to a contract of that length with the Thrashers last summer. He’s played in six different cities during his professional career and is facing the possibility of moving once again.
“That’s one of the very few things that is tough about the job,” said Mason. “I’m fortunate enough to be playing hockey and that’s one of the things that you just have to deal with. It’s happened throughout a hockey player’s career and that’s just the way it goes.
“We’ve done it before, we’ll do it again.”
The prospect of potentially seeing the franchise move from Atlanta to Winnipeg has him divided. On one hand, Mason feels bad about the fans and team employees that would be left behind in Atlanta but it would also give him a chance to live out a dream.
“There’s definitely things that would be really cool about it,” said Mason. “Playing in Canada, for me, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. It would be really cool.
“Just playing in front of a packed house every night would be awesome.”
The Thrashers were 28th out of the 30-team league in attendance last season, averaging just 13,469.
Playing under a new coach in Craig Ramsay and with a number of new players, Atlanta had a promising start to last season. However, a 6-15-5 swoon in the middle of the schedule doomed them to another year outside of the playoffs.
“Last year was just such a weird dynamic,” said Mason. “You had the biggest turnover I’ve ever seen in a long time with players, you had a new general manager (Rick Dudley), new coaches. It was like a completely new team. …
“I think moving forward this year everybody knows each other and I think it’s going to be a lot different.”
Even though the Thrashers have been up for sale for an extended period of time, the possibility of them leaving Atlanta has only seemed real in the last week or so. Mason says it was something players rarely discussed during the season—save for the odd joke here or there.
“Not that we thought it was a possibility,” he added.
Mason played American Hockey League games in the old Winnipeg Arena early in his pro career and has some good friends in the city, but hasn’t started making any plans to settle there just yet.
He and his Atlanta teammates remain in limbo and are anxious to receive some official word about their playing future.
“Until it really happens, it’s hard to commit one way or the other,” said Mason. “It’s going to be interesting to see what happens here in the next couple days.”