Wednesday, 3 October 2007

So, How Long Until the Predators Move?

by Jes

I got an email in my inbox today from our favourite southerner, Wayne, about the 'sale' of the Nashville Predators. It's a topic I've kinda ignored recently as I'm eagerly awaiting the start of the season.

So, it comes as no surprise that the deal to sell the club is on thin ice.

From the Toronto Star:
The deal to keep the Predators in Nashville appears to be nearly dead, with the local ownership and the city's council at loggerheads over monetary issues and potential changes to the team's arena lease.

The leader of a local group trying to buy the Predators told Nashville's The Tennessean he doubts the deal to work out after the city rejected the group's requests for new tax money and several improvements to the Sommet Center.

"No, I'm not hopeful," David Freeman, CEO of 36 Venture Capital, told the newspaper. "We put a ton of work into it, and we did our best."

Where that leaves the Predators is uncertain. BlackBerry billionaire Jim Balsillie of Waterloo, Ont., had a $238 million (all figures U.S.) offer on the table to buy the team from Craig Leipold, but he wanted to move it to Hamilton.

Of course, James "Canucks Hater" Mirtle has been all over this like a wet blanket, and notes that the Preds already have the sweetest arena deal in the league.

As I see it, this is all part of Gary Bettman's master plan.

Bettman didn't want an owner that he can't control, nor did he want a team to move to Canada, especially Hamilton.

Thus, Bettman did everything he could, including nudging Leopold, not to sell to Jim Balsillie, a 'renegade' in Bettman's eyes.

Out of the blue, the Predators suddenly had a white knight (Knocking Boots Del Biaggio and his crew) that wanted to keep the Preds in Nashville. Why would anyone want to keep a club in a town with weak corporate support and attendance? It was speculated that Bettman promised Boots the next open team, and Boots wanted to move the club.

Of course, Boots and crew put up the illusion that they wanted to keep the team in Nashville. Bettman couldn't surely have the team suddenly move after pulling out the rug from Balsillie's legs, could he?

So, the 'new' owners demand everything but the moon from the local government, continue gutting the roster, and jacking up ticket prices. Basically, the team is doing everything it can to make itself look like it is failing in Nashville. Who in the hell would want to attend a Preds game with a watered-down roster and high ticket prices?

Then, the initial deal will fall through, and Bettman/Boots will find a way to move the team out of Nashville, claiming that the NHL tried, but could not make hockey work in Country Music City.

Tom Benjamin sums it up pretty well in an older post of his:

I think we will see announced attendance in Nashville will be comfortably above the number necessary to sustain the lease while the fans are kept in the dark about the paid attendance. We will also see one snag after another in the sale of the Predators to the local group. Eventually the problems will all be resolved except Boots Del Biaggio will be the majority rather than a minority shareholder. Finally, late in the season, we'll learn the targetted paid attendance was not met.

In the meantime, Predator fans - and there are real fans in the area - have to pay a lot more to see a team that will be a lot less competitive. Many of them will pony up because they believe that if they do, they can save their team. They want to believe that, so they will. Some will say that its their own fault for choosing to buy into a fairy tale, but I don't think that's fair given the way Leipold and the league has scripted the relocation.

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