14,000, or lack thereof

12Oct07

Update: I just posted this, then The Forechecker had this link up. There’s some legal-ese about the 14,000 mark that I can’t quite decipher yet, but it sounds like SOMETHING’s being made in good faith about the Nashville community. Until then, mark me as still skeptical about Balsillie’s true intentions.

With all of the commotion being made about hits to the head and suspensions, one little piece of news seemed to slip by without too much notice: Jim Balsillie wants to make nice with the city of Nashville and buy the Predators. Again.

You all remember what happened last time, right? Balsillie went guns-blazin’ into the NHL boardroo, started hootin’ and hollerin’ about moving the team to Hamilton, and even had a ticket drive and advertisement in the local Hamilton paper. People in Hamilton were delighted. Fans in Nashville were bewildered and pissed off. Gary Bettman and company weren’t particularly happy either, not necessarily at the fact that Hamilton was in the running, but because some hotshot billionaire went in and bucked all the rules.

Then a local group decided to come in and try and save the Preds, and now, depending on who you believe, the sale may or may not be in jeopardy. Balsillie, perhaps salivating at the chance to re-enact his master plan, apparently wants in.

But the difference this time with Balsillie is that instead of pointing and laughing at Nashville and Predators fans, he’s trying to sweet-talk the faithful. Oh sure, he says, we’ll keep the team in Nashville. We’ll make it work. We’ll win a Stanley Cup here. Just come and support the team, k?

Of course, Balsillie can talk all he wants. The real number here is 14,000 — the magic attendance average that must be met in order to really keep the team in Nashville. And right now, the Predators are averaging around 13,800 (there’s a secondary debate that could be had right now as to why that’s happening and the whole corporate sponsorship debaucle, but that’s another issue). So, considering all this, I’m guessing that Balsillie’s looking at that early season number and thinking that he’s got a good chance to move this team unless things play out differently this season.

In essence, Balsillie’s doing what he should have done in the first place: pay lip-service to the Nashville community, then bide his time to see what his chances were to actually relocate the team. Instead, he made everyone mad and lost his chance.

So now, he’s making up for it. He’s saying the right things and letting the numbers dictate for themselves. If the local bid fails and Balsillie comes in, then it really just comes down to a attendance-per-game watch. Balsillie can talk all he wants; we all know that his true intentions aren’t to keep the team in Nashville.

The real people who get screwed here are the fans — the die-hard Preds fans who sit in the upper bowl and the fans in Hamilton who are getting their hopes up yet again. There’s no real easy way around this situation; you can blame Balsillie for screwing up the first bid and putting a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, you can blame Bettman and company for putting a team in a market that’s struggling for 14,000 attendance, you can blame the previous ownership regime for failing to capture corporate support, or you can blame the city of Nashville’s corporate society for failing to step up when needed.

Any way you cut it, it’s an ugly situation with no simple answers. Balsillie’s re-entry just makes it even more complicated.

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5 Responses to “14,000, or lack thereof”

  1. 1 Anonymous

    Down with Bettman! The team should be in Hamilton, ON where more than 1 in every 20 people knows what hockey is and loves the game…

    http://www.FireBettman.com

  2. 2 Mike Chen

    I’ve said this many, many times: Bettman does not control everything. He directs the agenda and has input, but the true power in the NHL lies in the Board of Governors. Anything Bettman says or does has to get past them.

    So firing Bettman would have some impact, but it wouldn’t bring a team to Hamilton. If the market seemed lucrative enough, if Buffalo and Toronto would allow it, and the league wanted to expand, Hamilton would have a team. It’s not Bettman crapping single-handidly on Canada, it’s a whole host of factors.

  3. 3 The Puck Stops Here

    The moral of this story is in the NHL to get what you want you have to lie about it.

    As another exhibit to demonstrate this principle see the 2004-2005 lockout.

  4. 4 downtownr

    Mike – I toured the Sprint Center Wednesday. It is awesome. Come to KC, Preds!!!

  5. 5 OddyOh

    Gotta agree with FireBettman.com…Gary’s the one who went all-guns-blazing into Nashville in the first place. Gonna make it work, or die trying, eh Bettman?

    As far as I know, the BOG’s go where the money is the greenest, and for hockey money, that’s Canada.

    Anyway, I hope Jim gets a team, he’s a sinfully rich man who loves the game. Where he gets it from, I don’t care, hell I’d welcome him as a new owner for my Leafs.

    But yeah, it’s hard to believe he didn’t understand the Nashville market before, and I’m sure his intent is to move the team eventually…but so what? Like the NHL didn’t move Winnipeg, Minnesota, Quebec, Hartford? Plus two lockouts! The NHL makes no bones about breaking fans hearts, as long as the wallet is fat enough.

    I guess we’ll know more by Halloween (when the negotiating period expires)…Trick or Treat?


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