Atlanta native exploring possible bid

ATLANTA -- Los Angeles-based filmmaker and Atlanta native Stephen Rollins says he is gathering information for a possible bid to buy the Atlanta Thrashers.

Rollins denied reports he already has made an offer for the team.

Rollins told The Associated Press on Wednesday in a telephone interview that he has talked with Bruce Levenson, one of the team's owners.

He laughed when asked whether his only interest would be as a majority owner.

"You better believe it," Rollins said. "I live, breathe, eat, sleep hockey, especially Thrashers hockey."

Rollins, 39, is the head of Lightning Pictures. He got his start as a writer, director and producer while growing up in Atlanta. He said he became a hockey fan after a player from the old NHL Atlanta Flames gave his mother a hockey stick "and said when I was big enough to play with it to give it to me. I started skating when I was about 6 or 7."

Rollins became a devoted fan of the minor league Atlanta Knights and said he took a lead role in a group that in 1996 gathered 35,000 signatures in support of the NHL awarding an expansion franchise to Atlanta. That franchise became the Thrashers.

He said he has remained a long-distance fan of the Thrashers and wears his Thrashers jersey to work on game days.

"I would like to own a team, and if it presented itself to be Atlanta, I would be more than ecstatic because of my hometown and everything I went through to help try to bring a franchise there to begin with," Rollins said.

Owners of the Thrashers and NBA Atlanta Hawks have sought new investors for a year.

"We are currently talking to a number of people or groups who have expressed an interest in partial or significant stakes in one or both teams," Levenson said last week.

Levenson did not immediately return phone and e-mail messages Wednesday night.

"We are only allowed to talk to folks about buying the Atlanta Thrashers in Atlanta," Levenson said last week, adding that was the mandate from the NHL.

Rollins said he has been troubled by rumors the team could move to Canada. He said he would have a marketing plan to bring more fans to Philips Arena.

"I think if you get out into the community and start promoting the team and start having the hockey activities you once did, I really think this thing could be turned around," Rollins said.

"You could wake a sleeping giant very fast. That's my hope for the Atlanta franchise, no matter who's owning it."

Rollins did not put a timetable on his current process of "looking at the numbers."

"I can say that my interest is definitely there if the situation presents itself properly," he said. "If it does, if I could be a part of that, then nothing would make me happier. I find it hard to find anyone who wants to see the NHL and the Thrashers thrive in Atlanta more than myself."

The Thrashers, who played their inaugural season in 1999-2000, were swept by the New York Rangers in 2007 in the team's only playoff appearance.

John Anderson was fired as coach and Don Waddell was moved from general manager to team president in a major shakeup after the Thrashers missed this year's playoffs. Rick Dudley was promoted to general manager. The team has not hired a new coach.