Monday, March 04, 2013

Gary Bettman's Scrapbook - Nashville edition

The quest for the NHL footprint in previously non-hockey markets has been a work in progress for years, dating back to the first expansion as a matter of fact and the westward march to California.

Along the way there have been hits and misses, some of the flags planted have tattered and eventually had to be taken down (Hello Kansas City, Hello Cleveland, Hello Atlanta x2).

Others were removed and never should have been, Bonjour Quebec, welcome back Winnipeg.

In others however, the jury is still deliberating as rows of empty seats on TV can testify towards (though we find it interesting that some markets report crowds of 15,000 plus while the video would suggest otherwise).

The current flash points for Mr. Bettman and the Accountants would seem to be Columbus, Long Island (though they are Brooklyn bound) and of course everyone's favourite wards of the state, the Phoenix Coyotes.

Those three lead our listings of the ink of red, leading the league in lack of attendance.

Rumblings continue as to other areas of concern, such as in Florida, where it seems many feel the next crisis point for the NHL may soon come home to roost.

Still, for the moment, the footings of the Bettman era of franchise security remain, with Nashville perhaps the one spot that the Commissioner can point towards as a team that keeps chugging along.

It wasn't all that long ago that many might have thought that the Predators were getting ready to back up the moving vans and migrating north, the destination of the day seemingly was to be Hamilton, with one time Blackberry king, Jim Balsillie ready to bring the much coveted second southern Ontario franchise home.

The Commish stepped in, making sure that there were enough hoops to jump through on that plan, that eventually it was abandoned, Mr. Balsillie left to tend to the fate of his daytime job.

As for Nashville, they just kept playing hockey, improving each year, securing a sojourn into the playoffs, making the Bridgestone arena a most happening place and continuing to build the Predator brand.

Grantland the most entertaining of online portals to come along in a while now, has a fascinating essay on the subject of the Predators, hockey, history and Nashville.

More than just a story about a hockey team seeking to find it's place, the article from David Hill takes us into the community rinks, onto the factory floor and explores how a game previously unknown to the region has grown much in the way of roots, most of them transplanted from the North.

It barely mentions the Predators or the NHL, instead it speaks of high school hockey, family and how the game is evolving in one particular outpost of the league.

We're pretty sure that the Commissioner is email links to one and all, it provides at least some proof that if given time, the game can grow in non traditional markets.

The Predators may or may not be a long term fixture for Nashville, the scale of economy both in hockey and in Tennessee, could one day lay waste to even the best of franchise planning. Ownership as we've seen over the years, is a fickle thing, one day steadfast and forward thinking, another desperately looking to get out.

But, for the moment, the imprint of hockey on Tennessee would seem to have been a success.

In fact, of the troubled franchises of recent times, Nashville seems to have done a pretty good job of balancing its financials and building up some loyalty in the community.

A story that offers a sunny break, in the midst of some dark looking clouds in other locales.

You can review the Grantland article here, a celebration of much more than just a sport, it's an item that is well worth the read.

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