Thursday, May 24, 2007


The Nashville Predators Sold to ... a Canadian?

by Jes

Yeah, talk about a real switch! An American NHL team is bought by a Canadian investor who seriously wants to move a club to Canada.

From the Nashville Post: has learned that Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of Research In Motion (makers of the Blackberry electronic communication device) is purchasing the Predators from Wisconsin businessman Craig Leipold. Leipold has owned the club since it first took to the ice in 1998.

According to sources, a press conference has been scheduled for Thursday to announce the sale of the team for reportedly $220 million. At the time of publication of this article, officials from Predators could not be reached for comment.

Over at The NHL Fanhouse, Eric believes that this sale means the inevitable move of the club North of the 49th parallel. We know Balsillie was looking to move the Penguins to Canada, and may have targetted the Predators as Option B.

This section from the Nashville Post article really caught my eye:
It is believed as of now that the team will remain in Nashville for the foreseeable future.

There is a way out, however. Because average game attendance for the season recently ended was below 14,000, the team has 60 days from its final hockey game to exercise an exit clause. That move, which would have to happen by mid-June, would trigger a one-year cure period in which the city must bring ticket sales up to 14,000 per game. Otherwise, after the year, the team could leave.

The NHL still has to sign off on the deal. Balsillie's last effort to buy a team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, ended abruptly last December when he didn't like the terms sought by the NHL -- one of those reportedly being that he was to keep the team in Pittsburgh. That deal, in which he agreed to pay a reported $175 million for the team, ended in mid-December.

Now, we know the Preds have been a failure off of the ice with low attendance and corporate support. It would make perfect business sense to move them to a stronger market.

Still, I cannot see Gary Bettman allowing any team into Canada, nor the move of one of his expansion pets. Yes, Bettman already swindled the club for the expansion fee, but how would it look to plunk a team into a city, have them cough up big dough for an arena, and then simply let the team move away quickly? If any team was going to move, it's likely to another US market, and it's likely to be a team that isn't quite so young.

The one-year cure period would certainly put the onus on the Preds to show that they want the team, but would it really show that the town wants the club in the long term? What if the team gets 14,100 in average attendance? That is still weak, right?

The deal might just fall through if Balsillie can't get the terms he want. Stay tuned.

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I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the Nashville franchise is the price the NHL paid for having the Jersey Devils use the 'Ville as leverage for a new arena way back in '95...

Nashville never had a hockey tradition to begin with (I'm talking minor-league), nor did it have a growing top-25 metropolitan population, either (unlike Atlanta, Carolina, Miami, or Tampa Bay). Nashville was nothing more than a money-grab by greedy NHL owners (think Wirtz and Jacobs) who couldn't grow their game organically.

As for moving it up to Canada, is there any arena existing (or being built) with 17,500 seats AND luxury boxes?

BTW: I don't think Nashville deserved the Titans, either, but they seem to be drawing well...
1) Balsillie would never have paid that kind of dough if he knew he had to keep it in a low income generating market like nashville
2) There should be little doubt he'll move the team to Hamilton and the NHL won't mind the move as this reduces by one the number of teams in need of revenue sharing.
3) While we're at it, why not ship the Coyotes back to Winnepeg!
Bettman loathes Canada, and doesn't want another team there. We all know this. Yes, Hamilton might make $$, but Toronto will raise a huge stink, and Bettman wants to grow the game in the good old USA.

Kansas? They have a brand new area (done or in the works?) and are just dying to have a team and offer some great terms. There is a lot of enticement to move a team there, and Bettman likely wouldn't oppose this.

To follow up, most of the expansion was a quick money grab, with no real long term plan to grow the game. Atlanta? They don't even support their basketball and baseball teams well, and Greg can tell you how cool the fanbase there is to their teams.
"Atlanta? They don't even support their basketball and baseball teams well, and Greg can tell you how cool the fanbase there is to their teams."

First, I've followed Atlanta sports all my life (I'm 45) and I lived there from '91-'05...

About the NBA team: they're a bunch of mismanaged losers...they haven't made the playoffs since 1999 and have had below-mediocre GMs and coaches who have been enabled by apathetic owners. And when the owners don't care...

The current GM is a condescending @@@hole towards the media and the fans, turning everyone off...

I'm sorry, but there's absolutely NO reason to spend money on the Hawks.

As for the Braves: As a former resident of Atlanta (did I say that already?), I think the city of Atlanta makes it damn difficult for fans to get down to Turner Field, with a lack of parking, not only at 755 Hank Aaron drive, but at the Marta stations around the metro area. Furthermore, like everyone likes to pick on Braves' fans for the lack of attendance during the first round of the playoffs, many times, because of MLB, you don't know what time the game will start until about 24 hours beforehand. (And you have to schedule off time, picking up your kid from school, etc.)...And then throw in the fact that we've seen it all before: we want World Series appearances (and championships), not first-round flame-outs.

What shocks me more about Atlanta fans is not the "lack of support" for the Braves or Hawks, but the empty seats I see for the Falcons...and this is supposedly a football town.
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