Atlanta Thrashers to return for one night

The NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers relocated to become the Winnipeg Jets in 2011. But next month they’ll hit the ice again in Georgia thanks to the ECHL’s Atlanta Gladiators — for one night only.

The Gladiators, a minor league affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes, will take on “the persona of the Thrashers” when they face the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on Dec. 16 in Duluth.

The Gladiators will wear limited-edition Thrashers jerseys that will be auctioned off to fans after the game. Thrashers rally towels will be given to every fan in attendance. They’ll also have Thrashers T-shirts and pucks for sale. Thrash, the mascot for the since-departed NHL team, will make an appearance. The video and ribbon board graphics will all transform into those for the Thrashers, trying to recreate the “Blueland” vibe of the team’s home games in Atlanta.

One shared bit of history between the teams: The Gladiators’ PA announcer, Steve Craig, was also the voice of the Thrashers.

The ECHL team has done “hockey heritage” nights before to honor teams like the NHL’s Atlanta Flames and the IHL’s Atlanta Knights. Anthony Schaff, the team’s director of game operations, had the idea to focus on the Thrashers if they could secure the rights to their intellectual property.

According to Mike Folta of the Gladiators, the team initially reached out to the Jets for clearance and was redirected to the NHL to obtain access to the intellectual property rights to the Thrashers for one game. The team had to make a case to the NHL’s director of intellectual property for why it wanted to do the event and what it had planned for it. The Gladiators’ request was made in May, and the NHL finally granted access in October.

Hopefully for the Gladiators, they look like the Thrashers but don’t play like them. Atlanta finished over .500 in points percentage just three times from 1999, when the NHL expansion team entered the League, to 2011, when they left for Winnipeg. The Thrashers made the playoffs once, losing in a sweep to the New York Rangers in 2007.

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