As of right now, this is unofficial, but by mid-day Thursday, it will be announced that the Nashville Predators have been sold to Blackberry mogul Jim Balsillie. You probably recall that Balsillie had a deal in place to purchase the Penguins, but reneged when he discovered that the team wouldn't leave Pittsburgh. He's found a "plan B".
Despite having one of the best teams in the NHL for two years running, the Preds have drawn really poorly at home. Their average attendance this season was somewhere close to 13,000, but close to 1000 of those were promotional and other "free" tickets. Their paid attendance was said to be nearer to 12,000. There is some discrepancy about the attendance numbers: some figures show their average take to be over 15,000. No matter whose numbers you use, there is little debate that the Preds just aren't a hot ticket in Nashville.
Other teams with poor attendance figures (including Carolina) have long leases with their city, or have too much history to move. The Nashville Predators, however, have an "out" clause in their lease with the city. If the team isn't selling an average of 14,000 paid tickets per game, they can either force the city to make up the difference, or they can leave. Next season will be their tenth, and it's likely that Balsillie will use it as the "cure" season.
The smart money is that Jim Balsillie will take the mustard-clad team out of Nashvegas and send it to Winnipeg, or Quebec City, or Moose Jaw, or Sault Ste Marie, or anywhere in Canada.
Will the fans in Nashvegas respond to a "Save the Preds" campaign? Doubtful. Will they buy enough tickets to "cure" the attendance woes? Possibly, but not in a long-term kind of way. Will the city cough up the money to make up the difference? Maybe.
I still say that the start of the 08-09 season will see a new Canadian team. Hopefully, the relocation will inspire Balsillie to change the name and the colors, too. I'm sure they'll have a new sleek color scheme involving silver and black. There'll be a full QWERTY keyboard embedded somewhere on the new team's sweater.
Depending on where the new team calls home, there might be a call for radical realignment.
3 years ago