It's called Music City so fans of the Nashville Predators may be forgiven if they head for the juke box and start picking out their favourite achy breaky heart songs today.
Thursday brought confirmation of the news, that Canadian billionaire and RIM King, Jim Balsillie had purchased their Preds, and that development has sent everyone going into overtime predicting a franchise shift is in the wind. If you are a Nashville based moving company, today might be a good day to print up a new batch of business cards, quoting rates north to the Canadian border.
Craig Leipold, the soon to be former owner gave his address to the faithful today, confirming that the Predators were soon to be sold and title transferred to Balsillie and while he may the requisite noises that Balsillie understands that he should give Nashville a chance to show they want their Preds, he all but confirmed that it may be a lost cause in Tennessee.
Leipold reported that while he owned the team he had lost some seventy million dollars in nine years, turning a profit only once and that for only 600,000 dollars. Over the years the Preds had become the top receiver of transfer funds from the NHL and attendance while on the upswing, is still a fair amount below the NHL average of 15,000.
Balsillie, who went through a bit of an inquisition over his attempt to buy the Penguins, has kept a low profile during the negotiations and now the announcement phase of the transaction.
His only comment today was that until all the paper work and such is done, the Preds were still Leipold’s and that there would be no further comment until all the procedural items were taken care of.
Many observers suggest that the fact that Balsillie has paid such an exorbitant price (220 million US) for the franchise, that surely there must be an agreement in place to allow him to take the team wherever he wishes, as long as all the required financial matters are resolved.
Leipold urged Balsillie to give Nashville a chance to respond. But it’s been a long haul in the land of the Opry and it’s doubtful that Balsillie would want to carry yearly losses in the millions for any length of time.
In a city known for it’s songs of heart break, there may be at least one more hurtin’ song for the Music city to get ready for.
We provide some of the press reaction to the Balsillie bombshell, below.
Canadian Press-Predators owner confirms sale to Balsillie
Globe and Mail-Balsillie's latest move is very different
Globe and Mail-Franchise could be headed to Ontario
CBC Sports-Balsillie has agreement to buy Predators
CBC Sports-Waterloo Predators not a done deal
CTV/TSN-Leipold selling Predators to Balsillie
National Post-RIM exec to buy NHL Predators
Kitchener-Waterloo Record-Balsillie back in the game
USA Today-Nashville might keep Predators if ...
Nashville Tennesean-Leipold: 'I cannot make it work here'
Nashville Post-Predators deal could close June 30
Nashville Post-Preds owner Leipold tires of losing money; confirms sale