Atlanta, GA--The NHL season is finally underway and there is no team more thankful than the Atlanta Braves. Huh? Say what? Before the Thrashers decided to flee to Canada this past summer, three of the four professional sports franchises in the Peach State's largest city shared something in common. No, not their futility. The Thrashers, sadly, share that in common with themselves.
What about birds? Well, three of the four teams here were bird mascots: Falcons, Hawks and Thrashers. And, the community frequently and loudly voiced their desire to complete the grand slam of bird teams in one city. The hockey team is now north of the border in sunny Winnipeg, which takes a lot of pressure off the Braves to become a feather-coated mascot.
For years, MLB's Braves and Indians, the NFL's Redskins and countless collegiate mascots have been put under, in some instances, enormous pressure to change the names of their teams out of respect for Native Americans. The Braves front office recently admitted that "they never much cared" about Native American concerns, but often lost sleep over the mounting pressure to become, perhaps, the Atlanta Emus, Atlanta Robins or, even worse, the Atlanta Swallows.
"The franchise has been the Braves since 1912 and that's a long time if you really stop and think about it and subtract 1912 from 2011," said Dennis Bilash, a former infielder and current Braves ticket salesman. "Now that the Thrashers are gone, we don't have to change our name. I think we were about to become the Atlanta Barn Swallows had the Thrashers stuck around. I don't know ... maybe it would have been cool to have four bird teams."