Hockey is alive and well in the South. Atlanta was granted an expansion franchise in 1997, and the Thrashers were named after the Georgia state bird, the brown thrasher.
The Thrashers have struggled, making the playoffs only once in 10 years, but fans descend from the north suburbs of Atlanta to enjoy some puck. Thrashers games can start as early as 7 p.m. during the week, so fans from the 'burbs have to hustle through rush-hour traffic to make it in time. If you go with MARTA, you can catch the train from any of the stops on the north line.
If You Go: Philips Arena is a beautiful setup for hockey, the sightlines are great and acoustics are perfect. Sit up a little higher if you can. All the seats in Philips are close to the rink, even the higher ones.
The Thrashers staff does a great job of keeping you entertained during the game even if the team doesn't. Funny clips from television shows and movies are played on the scoreboard following goals and penalties; these are pure genius. The fans anticipate these clips and look forward to what is going to be played next.
If You Don't Go: TJ's Sports Bar at 2880 Holcomb Bridge Road in North Fulton County is owned and operated by Tim Ecclestone, a former Atlanta Flames hockey player. For more than 20 years, TJ's has been the spot to follow hockey, and really all sports in North Fulton. Great food, more than 60 televisions and trivia on certain nights of the week -- what more could you ask for? Try the Wisconsin beer cheese soup on a winter night. TJ's has billiards tables and video games to help you pass the time during the game's intermissions.
If you're caught in traffic, switch on the Thrasher's Post Game Show with Dan Kamal and hear replays and his take on the game. The Thrasher's flagship station is 680 AM WCNN in Atlanta. They will also give traffic and road construction reports to get you home as quickly as possible.
Got postgame hunger? The OK Cafe right off of I-75 and Paces Ferry Road is a good option, complete with friendly service and tasty southern food. The young and crazy hockey players will probably head to Buckhead and get a meal at New York Prime, Bones or Chops. These restaurants will stay open late and have private rooms for professional athletes.
Pro Football Now: Start 'em Sit 'em for Week 14
SI Now: After signing Ellsbury, what's left in Yanks' bank for Cano?