Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Cats won’t pack!

Hold up on the moving vans and put away those change of address cards. The Nashville Predators may not be going anywhere, anytime soon.

The Cats, who were once considered a sure thing to be moving to Ontario, suddenly have become the favourite pets of some local investors in the Nashville area. The group was reported to be closing in on the final details on Tuesday that would see them keep the Predators as a fixture in the Music City.

They have reportedly signed a letter of intent to purchase the nine-year franchise from owner Craig Leipold for between $175-million (all figures U.S.) and $190-million.

It marks a reduction in the mad money that Ontario investor Jim Balsillie had promised Leipold, at one point the Canadian hockey fanatic had offered up to 240 million for the unwanted kitties, only to see his passion and his pocketbook spurned by higher forces in the NHL. Balsillie it seems has run afoul of the league office, as this is the second consecutive bid that he has tendered for an NHL franchise, only to see a string of conditions or backroom manoeuvring come along to dash his dream of bringing a second NHL franchise to the lucrative Southern Ontario market.

Hamilton hockey fans had rushed to secure a place on the season ticket rolls, just in case Balsillie’s gambit paid off, but once again Canada’s steel city finds itself spurned by the league. Trapped in a no mans land between Toronto and Buffalo that it seems will never relinquish its hold on the hockey fans of Ontario’s golden horseshoe.

It’s not surprising that the Balsillie bid ended the way it seems to have gone. The heat between his group and the NHL led by Gary Bettman seemed to get hotter with each passing day and each successive step by Balsillie to secure the team.

Though it’s a puzzling thing when a league is willing to throw away millions of dollars and turn away a market that not only would be successful but has a deep seated passion for the game.

Instead, the strategy of moving teams to distant and at times rather uninterested American cities will continue.

What remains to be seen is, if Balsillie will try again when the next basket case franchise comes up for bid.

Perhaps he might want to wait until Gary Bettman has moved on to his next adventure, for it seems that as long as Bettman is calling the shots, Balsillie will continue to be shot down.

Below find some of the background on the machinations in place to keep the Preds Nashville bound.

Predators look set to stay put
Local group preparing letter to purchase Predators
Nashville group moves to buy Predators
Local group to move today on Predators deal

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