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As if Atlanta Thrashers fans didn’t already feel screwed overOn Sunday, the Winnipeg Jets will make their regular-season debut, roughly four months after they relocated from Atlanta.

Some former Thrashers fans might dial up the game to see their former favorites skating in a new sweater. Others have moved on from the franchise that deserted them.

Or, at least, they're trying to move on, despite the obstacles presented by the NHL.

After the Thrashers relocated, the recruiting process began for Atlanta fans. The Nashville Predators aggressively courted them, pitching a ticket deal that included discounts for the Jets' visit to Music City and offering a primer on Predators players for those new to bandwagon. The Carolina Hurricanes, meanwhile, are mulling a preseason game in Atlanta next season and whether to offer their own ticket plans to Jets games.

Wow, lose a team and get two teams seeking your affections. The brokenhearted should be so lucky.

To fill the Thrashers' television void, the Hurricanes and Predators are each broadcasting 40 games in Atlanta this season.

The catch: Twice the local teams, twice the local television blackouts. Atlanta fans are being asked to embrace teams they're not allowed to actually watch.

Here's a letter we received from Kris Norris, who is self-identified as a "former hockey fan":

"I'm a former Thrashers fan who spent all summer working through my sadness over losing my team so that I could still enjoy watching hockey this 2011-2012 season.  I subscribed to GameCenterLive through NHL.com so I could watch Nashville and Carolina games ... and yes, to keep tabs on our former players in Winnipeg.

"But to my utter and complete dismay, I discovered tonight that Atlanta is now in the blackout region for BOTH Nashville AND Carolina, therefore I can watch neither team.  The reason for this is that the NHL, in their "kindness and generosity" to help Thrashers fans switch allegiance to a new team, decided to broadcast 1/2 of Nashville's games and 1/2 of Carolina's games in the Atlanta area.

This seemed like a good idea, except that this now means Atlanta is in the "local" broadcasting zone, thus the blackout restrictions.  So if we don't have the local broadcasting channel (FoxSportsSouth) we are S.O.L.

"I have cancelled my subscription to GamecenterLive and am most likely done with Bettman's NHL. How does the NHL expect me to become a fan of a new team that is close enough for me to travel to a couple of times a year if they don't allow me to see all of their games?

"They have proven to me, yet again, exactly what they think of the hockey fans here in the ATL."

Laura Astorian of Thrashing The Blues notes that these "local" teams are a four-hour (Nashville) and seven-hour (Raleigh) drive from Atlanta. Here's her take on the blackouts:

So, since we're apparently double the hockey market we were when we had a team here, we get double the blackouts. The Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators games are so far being blacked out in Atlanta due to the fact that some games will be broadcast on FoxSports South. Not all, just a few. Inexplicably, the NHL is blacking out the games broadcast on Center Ice/Gamecenter Live regardless of if they're being aired in the Atlanta area.

So, to recap - fans in a non-hockey market who are paying almost $180 a year to watch a sport that they can no longer watch at the NHL level in their backyard can't watch teams on TV that they have to drive long distances to attend games for. As a paying customer, I'm miffed.

Hopefully the NHL gets on this ASAP and lifts all blackouts for the Atlanta market. It's the least it can do for fans that were screwed by absentee ownership and then watched the NHL publicly step aside to allow relocation after fighting the good fight for markets like Nashville and Phoenix.

For the ex-Thrashers fans in the readership: Are you watching the Jets on Sunday?

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