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Are We The Team Of Choice For Former Thrashers Fans?

Since the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg in 2011, many Atlanta fans have been searching for a new favorite team.

by Dan Marrazza @GoldenKnights / VegasGoldenKnights.com

Professional sports teams are very often sources of emotion.

When a team wins a championship, or even a single game, it can bring about a feeling of euphoria for its fans. At the same time, losses can be bitter, and even for individuals with no other affiliation to the team except for a fan's allegiance, these defeats can stay with them for a lifetime.

For sports fans, these are common emotions.

The emotions that most sports fans never have to address are those associated with the relocation of their favorite team.

Where as exciting as it was for Vegas to get an NHL team, the emotions involved in cities that lose their teams are just as visceral in the opposite direction.

The most recent fan base to be inflicted with this sort of loss was that of the Atlanta Thrashers, which departed for Winnipeg in 2011 after joining the NHL in 1999.

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For the Thrashers players, it was simple: they were now Winnipeg Jets.

For Thrashers fans, it was more complicated. After all, with their favorite team no longer existing, who would they root for?

In a letter we recently received from a former Thrashers fan in Cedartown, Georgia, we learned of new Golden Knights fan Tim Whalen. After six years as a misplaced Atlanta fan, Whalen became a Vegas fan after a curious sequence of events during a vacation to our city three years ago.

"I was just walking around a casino and somebody left a paper," Whalen recently told VegasGoldenKnights.com by phone. "I was going to play a slot machine, but I just picked it (newspaper) up and started reading it. It was just a little column talking about how if there could be a pro sports team in Vegas. At the time, Mr. Foley hadn't even gotten the approval yet, or had sat down with the owners to discuss expansion. It was just rumors of him wanting to get a team.

 

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"I said: 'this is pretty cool, I like this.' I hadn't had a team to root for since the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg. I tried to root for other teams, but none of them felt right.

"I lived in Florida for a time and actually went to a few Lightning games. But it just never really felt right rooting for them. I tried rooting for the Capitals. I like Alex Ovechkin as a player, love watching him play. Again, it just didn't feel…I can't quite explain. I missed my Thrashers a lot. I could never root for the Predators since they were the nearest, for our area in northwest Georgia, the nearest teams are the Predators and the Carolina Hurricanes. I could never root for the Hurricanes and I couldn't root for the Predators. I loved the sport, loved the NHL, but I just watched it at that point without a team.

"When I started reading the paper, I thought that this was maybe something I could get into. I liked Vegas. And this is something historical, as a matter of fact. This is not only something historical, it's significant and it's a city I visit once a year and enjoy immensely. I felt this was something I could get behind. I just kept my fingers crossed. And said that this is going to be my team if this expansion happens, and then it happened."

When Whalen relayed his story to us, it got us thinking.

For most fans of a team in any sport, there is usually a story behind how they aligned themselves with their favorite teams.

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Sometimes it's because they inherited their fandom from a parent. Or maybe they had a favorite player on the team, a friend who took them to a game or just had a sense of civic pride.

Or sometimes, if you're Cedartown, Georgia's Tim Whalen, you end up in some way disenfranchised from your first favorite team, and just maybe fall in love with a new team over a middle-of-the-night reading of an article.

Seeing as we're a new team without the traditional lineage of being passed from one generation to the next, we suppose our fans have adopted us for different reasons than fans of other teams.

So we ask you, how did you become a Golden Knights fan?

Especially if you have a story as interesting as Tim's, we invite you to tell us via Facebookor Twitter.

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