Saturday, October 04, 2008

In Nashville the lawyers are working harder than the players

The ongoing financial story in Nashville is once again raising some eyes among hockey fans across North America, as the current Nashville ownership admits that they have defaulted on a 40 million dollar loan and are heading to court to do battle with a former would be partner.

Predator Holdings will take to the bankruptcy courts in a bid to settle up some outstanding scores with the one time white knight of the operation, William "Boots" Del Biaggio. They have offered up the number of 100 million dollars, as the amount of money they require in damages after they allege he took part in "fraudulent activities and misrepresentations."

It's another twist to the Predators franchise that seems to be showing more than a few cracks in the foundation of the NHL's southern expansion base, one that may suggest will only deteriorate more with the rapidly escalating decline of the US economy and the tightening of the credit lending system in the USA.

It was only a few weeks ago the NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was doing his hockey version of the John McCain speech about how the American economic fundamentals were strong. And we suspect, that much like Mr. McCain found that there were few taking comfort in his words, Mr. Bettman may find more than a few skeptics waiting to examine his financial details as well.

Arriving on the Nashville scene with a cheque book and still solvent bank account,has been none other than the hockey King of Hamilton/Kitchener; Jim Balsillie, who has reportedly made a bid to take over those floundering shares of Mr. Del Biaggio.

That would make for an interesting decision for Mr. Bettman, who so far has been less than interested in the size of Mr. Balsillie's wallet, his remarkable business success story the Blackberry, or his interest in taking a share in any of the NHL stable of "solid" franchises. Why the NHL isn't inclined to let someone who actually has documented net worth join their merry band of loan defaulters and prison bound executives, remains a mystery to all but the upper reaches of the NHL head office.

The Nashville fiasco has been the topic of many editions of Bob McCown's Prime Time Sports this week on The Fan Radio network (podcasts available) and has also been the subject of a number of well documented articles in the Globe and Mail and other publications.

As the NHL gets ready to launch a new season, the questions of roster moves, line combinations and which teams have the best shot at the Stanley Cup, may give way to questions over which teams can finance their operations in a stable environment and if some of the current locations (especially in the southern footprint) will be hosting teams by the time the league opens up training camps in September of 2009.

To get caught up on your reading, here are some of the details of the Nashville follies..

Globe and Mail

National Post

Toronto Star

The Tennessean

Kitchener-Waterloo Record

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