Atlanta, shuttered in '05, gets '08 All-Star Game
ATLANTA -- The NHL All-Star Game is coming to Atlanta.
The city was supposed to host the 2005 game, but the season was canceled because of the lockout. So, Philips Arena was awarded the league's midseason showcase in '08.
"This a bit of deja vu all over again," said NHL senior vice president Ken Yaffe, who made the announcement Saturday at a news conference before the Thrashers' final regular-season home game. "I thank the club for their patience in this process."
The Thrashers were penciled in for the 2007-08 season almost as soon as the lockout was settled. No All-Star Game was held this season because of the Olympic break, and there wasn't time to secure enough hotel rooms and convention space for next year.
Dallas was awarded the '07 game.
"There's a three-year planning cycle to get the hotel blocks and other requirements," Yaffe said. "You need the lead time, so that's why we looked ahead to '08."
The city will complete a triple play of sorts when the NHL brings its best players to Atlanta, which already hosted All-Star games for Major League Baseball (1972 and 2000) and the NBA (1978 and 2003).
"For me, this is a showcase event for our sport," Thrashers general manager Don Waddell said. "You get the 50 best players in the world all under one roof. We don't get to see the players in the [Western Conference] very often because of scheduling. That's the exciting part of it."
The three-day event will culminate with the All-Star Game on Jan. 16, 2008, a Wednesday night. The league is shifting from a weekend to a midweek format beginning next year.
The SuperSkills competition and YoungStars game will be held on Jan. 15. The Thrashers are still working out plans for Jan. 14, which likely will include an open practice and some sort of concert.
The team also wants to use the All-Star Game to expand grass-roots hockey programs in the city. The Thrashers average more than 15,000 fans per game, but the overall fan base is still the smallest of Atlanta's four major league teams.
"The legacy of this All-Star Game should be to grow our base of support," said Bernie Mullin, president and chief executive of the team's ownership group. "We want more kids playing hockey. We want more adults playing hockey."
The Thrashers already are plugging the All-Star Game as a way to get more season ticket holders at their 18,545-seat arena. Mullin wasted no time pointing out that everyone who buys a full-season package in 2007-08 will likely be able to purchase All-Star tickets, as well.
"I'm sure we'll have enough to cover our full-season ticket holders and all our local partners," he said. "If we have any more, we'll probably do a lottery for individual game ticket holders."
Waddell is just glad the All-Star Game is coming to Atlanta, even though it's three years later than expected.
"It didn't happen the first time through no fault of the people in Atlanta," he said. "It's nice to reward them with the All-Star game in 2008."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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