Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Portable Predators?

The intrigue of the recent sale of the Nashville Predators has added another twist, as one of the then co-owners at the time, William J. "Boots" Del Biaggio III was apparently flogging the idea to other potential investors that the team wasn’t long for Nashville and would be a good place to park some cash while the moving vans apparently idled off in the distance.

The Nashville Tennessean did some investigative reporting over the last few weeks, (perhaps more investigation than the NHL did on their would be investor) and discovered that Mr. Del Biaggio was selling the idea to investors that the Preds had something called portability, a phrase that we suspect means that they could be moving down the road with little in the way of roadblocks (unless of course your name is Balsillie).

The Tennessean reveals a number of confidential presentations that painted a bleak picture for Nashville as an NHL team, all apparently designed to lure other investors into the boat that then would set sail for an alternate location, frequently rumoured to be Kansas City.

Mr. Del Biaggio of course has since run into a few financial setbacks and legal troubles of his own, so any thoughts of moving the Predators to an alternate venue are probably far off on his agenda these days.

However, it’s suggested by the Nashville paper that his subsequent legal problems are going to leave creditors on the hook for millions of dollars, presumably some of whom call Nashville home, not to mention the bind it might leave the current ownership group in as far as financing goes.

With this latest land mine going off, the remaining group of owners in Nashville are doing what they can to provide a little damage control and reassure the locals that the Preds are in the city for the long haul.

What’s remarkable about this whole mess is the apparent lack of oversight exhibited by the NHL, which of course raised eyebrows when they allowed former owner Craig Leipold to pick up the Minnesota Wild after selling his Predator squad to the new owners including the now in the spotlight Del Biaggio.

They’ve been rather quiet while this mess continues to play out in Nashville, having yet to give the locals there any indication that the word professional, should be confused or used for that matter with the word hockey when it comes to dealings in the city.

It’s becoming a mess that keeps getting uglier and uglier and the sooner the NHL begins to get prominently involved the better.

The current ownership may be trying to sell the idea that they’re in Nashville to stay, but the question is whether the folks in Nashville would want to have much more to do with a league that seems to be finding trouble at every turn when it comes to the franchise.

Stephen Brunt of the Globe and Mail weighed in on the issue with another excellent article on the troubles that Boots has brought to Mr. Bettman's office door, raising more than a few questions about the stewardship of the league under the current chain of command in New York.

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