Showing posts with label Nashville Predators. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nashville Predators. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

From the NHL catwalk: Predators


As the NHL and Rbk release the new updated uniforms for the NHL this year, we'll provide a link to the NHL shop page and a preview of the new look. Here's the new clothing choice for discriminating Nashville Predator fans.
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Predators shop page.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Jim Balsillie’s march to Hamilton, will it be Gary Bettman’s Waterloo?

The Commissioner’s uncomfortable look at the televised NHL Awards last night, gave away the body language of a guy in a corner. Gary Bettman looked a tad rigid in his chair after that Ron McLean joke about relocating the last half of the show to Kitchener-Waterloo, a jibe that probably tells us a lot about the state of affairs between the Commissioner and the billionaire would be hockey owner Jim Balsillie.

The bid to purchase the Nashville Predators, like the attempted purchase of the Pittsburgh Penguins before it, is starting to spin away from the commissioners grasp and he can’t like the feeling of déjà vu. Balsillie even upped the stakes in the game of poker with the NHL owners, offering the Nashville owner Craig Leipold, 240 million for his hockey team, an amount that seems out of whack even to the unseasoned eye of a non accountant.

240 million for a team in a leauge, which a fair number of years since a southern expansion still, has a negligible footprint in the USA outside of traditional markets. 240 million for a team in a league with a TV contract that allows playoff games to be punted before completion lest the majestic sight of a horse and jockey rubbing noses may be missed. 240 million dollars for a team in a league where some franchises are offering two for one deals on tickets and still don’t particularly draw well.

If you’re Craig Leipold, Balsillies' arrival is like a lottery win, after years going into debt and trying to make a go of it in Nashville, he has been offered a parachute of gold out of his financial doldrums, just let the rest of the NHL try to stop the sale and watch the fireworks.

More to the point though is why would they try to stop him from spending such money, Balsillie with his huge purchase price instantly increases the face value of every single franchise in the 30 team loop. An artificial number that doesn’t really seem to be a true reflection of worth, but when you consider that there are at least three or four Nashvilles in the league at the moment, dollars are dancing...

The problem for the NHL is of course, Mr. Balsillie appears to not want to call the land of the Opry Home, but instead would seem to prefer the working mans foundry of Hamilton for his 240 million dollar investment.

Not a problem for the majority of the owners we suspect, but a concern for Toronto and Buffalo. The Sabres are probably worried for their ticket base, as perhaps half of their season tickets are owned by residents of the golden horseshoe area of Ontario, put a team in Hamilton and the traffic flow on game night might be North instead of Southeast in a year or so.

For the Leafs it’s just the nerve of someone thinking of poaching into their long held territory, a fiefdom which they protect with much zeal. Never mind the fact that the only way to get a Leafs season ticket is for Grampa to die off and leave them in the will, the Leafs have enjoyed uninterrupted attention in Southern Ontario far beyond when young Jim Balsillie probably first saw his first blackberry patch and went aha. To share such lucrative turf with an interloper and a pushy one at that, probably has the office dwellers of the Air Canada Centre looking at nuclear weapons as a way to stem the invasion.

Television of course is what’s at stake, adding a team in Hamilton will cut into that cash cow of the digital world and its non stop attention given to the mighty Blue and White. From Sportsnet through TSN and to the Leafs very own television network Leafs TV, the Leafs are like something from Orwell, they are always there. And they probably aren’t inclined to share.

For Gary Bettman the headache is surely to get worse before it gets better, while the Leafs and Sabres will have their reasons for protection, other NHL owners may wonder why they are willing to let an opportunity slip by to not pay equalization to a market that doesn’t seem to like hockey that much. The Preds reportedly made the largest withdrawals from the equalization pool, a situation that is likely not to happen upon relocation to a hockey mad market like Hamilton. In addition to putting dollars in their pockets upfront, Balsillie is unlikley to take them out at the other end of the season.

There are rumblings that the NHL is a little put off by the full speed ahead approach of Balsillies group and the forming storm clouds that his entry to the league may bring. Gary Bettman may find that Mr. Balsillie emboldens other owners who may be tiring of the attempts to inject hockey into areas that don’t seem to want it, while those that would be great successes are left off the invitation list. If you were to pick one market for a relocation, you can’t help but think Hamilton is the most likely to succeed. Hockey is the culture of the area, the population not only understands the game, they hold it in reverence like Winnipeg and Quebec City; they share a longing for the game. The NHL would surely do worse than planting its flag in the Steel city.

Already deposits in Hamilton for tickets for a team that may or may not come to town, already outpace ticket sales in the town the franchise sits in. Clearly Hamilton is stepping up to what is their best and probably last chance to gain a franchise, for a Commissioner that claims to want to protect hockey in its homeland the prospect of telling Hamiltonians to get lost can't be a happy one, hence his pursed lips and shifting butt at the Elgin theatre.

The grimace (unintended or not) said it all on Thursday night, Balsillie is becoming the stone in Mr. Bettman’s shoe, only we suspect that betting against the stone would be an unwise choice to make.

Where it leaves the Commissioner when it is all played out could be the larger issue of the NHL for the league and it’s owners, especially if he’s finding himself further and further away from their goals of financial salvation.

Below some links to the growing file of coverage on the chess match that seems to be developing between the Commissioner and the prospective owner.

Hamilton NHL ticket deposits leap past Nashville's base
Preds selling out... in Hamilton
Copps Coliseum designed for expansion
Bettman's Balsillie, U.S. TV contract conundrum
Balsillie good for the NHL
Balsillie buzz swarms award show
Balsillie, NHL on collision course
Bumpy road for Balsillie
Cherry urges NHL to support Balsillie
Sabres mum on Preds potential move
Leipold has millions of reasons to speak up
Predators inch closer to Hamilton
Tickets, who needs tickets?
Balsillie shouldn't overplay his hand
Beware Balsillies competitive fever
Predators owner invokes escape clause in lease
Nashville concentrating on buying more tickets to keep Predators
City rallies around Preds
Nashville fans plan to fight back
NHL, not Balsillie Hamilton's toughest opponent
Hamilton council OKs deal for prospective NHL team
Council's Tennessee two-step
Doughnuts, Copps not appetizing for NHL
Hamilton accepts Preds
Balsillie attracts competition watchdog
Many years in the making

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Waiting for an arena of dreams

They’re dreaming the dream in the Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge areas today, as local Billionaire (and really, how many communities in Canada have one of those hanging around town) David Balsillie works to finish off the details of his purchase of the Nashville Predators.

Ever since the deal was announced by current Preds owner Craig Leipold earlier this week, Balsillie has been keeping a rather low profile. Perhaps having learned a lesson or two from the public dramatics of the eventually discarded Penguins sale, Balsillie is allowing the discussion on the Preds to remain mainly in the Nashville area.

That however hasn’t stopped the locals from his hometown from looking over the local roadmaps, calling up the past local land acquisitions on their Blackberries and coming up with one plus one really might make two.

The Kitchener Waterloo Record did a bit of legwork for the locals over the weekend with an article that highlighted a recent land purchase by Research in Motion (Balsillies' daytime job when he isn’t out there spending millions on hockey clubs), which saw the computer giant pick up some industrial land in nearby Cambridge, nearby the busiest highway in the nation (some say the world) the 401, and right close to what’s described as the region’s International airport.

Some 26 acres which cost the computer company 3.8 million, relative coffee money when you consider the 220 million which Balsillie personally paid for the under supported predators franchise.

Most importantly of all for the land package, it’s measured out as 82 kilometers away from Toronto, 2 klicks past their territorial veto. (You can bet Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment will be out there with odometers and tape measures as soon as possible, just to make sure.)

With Toronto growing out to the North and West and a growing London, Woodstock and Stratford just down that highway to the West, they’re thinking big in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. Thinking that that they’re soon to be the centre (or in deference to Toronto, the sub centre we guess) of southern Ontario’s hockey universe.

The NHL needs to begin to retrench its product in those locations where a knowledge and love of the game will provide for a stable and receptive fan base. They could do a lot worse than letting the Kitchener-Waterloo billionaire take his soon to be Cats north, in fact, some would say that there’s more than a few more teams ready for a northward migration.

An NHL team for Cambridge? Well, we can dream, can't we?
JEFF HICKS
(May 25, 2007)


An NHL team in Cambridge? Please, say it will be so.

"I would love to see that happen," said city councillor Karl Kiefer yesterday. "That would be the cat's meow."

Actually, it'd be more like the growl of the Nashville Predators, who are to be sold to local billionaire Jim Balsillie and could be moved to Cambridge.

Yesterday, such wild speculation raced through the city that straddles the 401 on a hot day in May.

Let's start with Mr. Balsillie. You remember him, don't you?

Research In Motion dude.

Co-chief executive of the merry BlackBerry makers from Waterloo.

Loves pucks. Lots of bucks.

Backed out of buying the Pittsburgh Penguins for $175 million US last December. Didn't like the conditions the NHL slapped on the purchase.

The NHL wanted the Pens to stay put.

Speculation is Balsillie dreamed of moving them north to Waterloo Region. That all fell through. Now, he's got the Preds.

Balsillie was a no-show at yesterday's presser announcing the sale of the Preds for $220 million. His absence was not a good sign for the true fans of NHL slash-and-dash in Nash, where attendance dipped below 14,000 per game this past season. According to outgoing owner Craig Leipold, the club lost $15 million in Tennessee last year. Surely, Balsillie will move the team north, perhaps as early as the season after next, Right?

How about Cambridge?

Think it can't happen?

Think about this.

In February, RIM purchased a large plot of land -- 26 acres, Kiefer said -- in Cambridge off Can-Amera Parkway, between Lingard and Townline roads.

Picked it up from a home builder.

Paid about $3.8 million.

Might be a simple plot on which to build grand new digs for bursting-at-the-seams RIM, now occupying 21 buildings in Waterloo.

Or the site could land in Balsillie's hands and become a perfect place to erect a big rink for a big-time team.

Close to the 401.

Close to the Breslau airport, where international flights are welcome.

Most importantly, it appears to sit about 82 km from the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. You see, the Toronto Maple Leafs hold a veto power over any plans to drop another NHL club within 80 km of their ice palace.

The Leafs seem out of the picture.

Cambridge looks to be in frame. Balsillie was not responding to Record requests for an interview.

So how do the locals feel?

Let's ask NHL forward Scott Walker, a 33-year-old ex-Predator who lives about a minute from the potential arena site. We're talking an NHL team in his hometown. We're talking an NHL team just beyond his backyard.

"Wow," said Walker, when informed Cambridge was a wild possibility.

"That'd be amazing. That would be unbelievable. That would be a shocker to everybody, wouldn't it?"

Not just a shocker.

It would be a wonderful jolt of big-time energy in the city of the Sutherland Cup champion Winter Hawks.

The NHL is a big jump from the Jr. B outfit Walker once played for.
But why not dream big?

So what if it's all just speculation, as Kiefer and Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig admit. It's a good day to dream.

"It could be the Cambridge Predators -- sounds great," Craig said. "We certainly have land down here in Cambridge for such an enterprise. Then again, it's up to Mr. Balsillie and his group."

If attendance continues to sag below 14,000, the Preds could become a free-agent team as early as next spring.

Walker could be one on July 1.

He made $1.5-million with the Carolina Hurricanes this past season and is talking contract with the Canes right now. But, come Canada Day, he could sign with any team he wants too.

Walker, who was the poster boy for the Preds franchise during his seven seasons in Nashville, wouldn't mind becoming a Predator again. After all, he was on the first Predators team after Nashville claimed him in the 1998 expansion draft. When Walker was traded to Carolina last summer, he was Nashville's franchise leader in goals with 96, points with 247 and penalty minutes with 465.

"We were talking about Nashville and that was before Jim got the team," Walker said. "It'll be interesting to see what they're plans are, if they're going to stay or move or what. It definitely piques my interest a lot more."

But what about Nashville as a hockey town? Why, after a decade of Predators hockey, hasn't the capital city of country music reserved a place in its hokey heart for hockey, alongside Minnie Pearl and the Grand Ole Opry?

"Our first year, it was new and a lot of people and the music industry caught onto it," Walker recalled.

"It was kind of the place to be the first few years. It was the hip place to be. It seemed to die out after that. You still always had your diehard fans."

Walkers figures the fan base wasn't the true problem in Nashville.

He blames the business side.

"I think it was the corporate sponsors that really kind of hurt -- they didn't get them," Walker said.

"The football team did."

Hockey is no match for the Tennessee Titans of the mighty NFL.

"Right at the beginning, they played in a little stadium," Walker said of the Titans. "Now they have a brand new big one right down the street from ours. It's just a different animal. It's a southern state. They love the hockey but football is kind of what they grew up with. It was a tough thing to try and battle."

Should Balsillie move the Predators north -- perhaps to Cambridge or somewhere else in Waterloo Region where a plot of land stands in need of an arena -- hockey's battle to hold Nashville high ground will be lost.

But Waterloo Region may win big.

"I think it's great for the region if it comes somewhere in the region," Craig said.
Even if Walker doesn't end up playing NHL hockey in his hometown, he would enjoy taking his family -- wife Julie and kids Cooper, 5, and Anna, 3 -- to see a big-time game in the area.
He's never met Balsillie.

But the dream of bringing an NHL team to the Region can work in reality.

Walker is convinced of that.

"It'd be great for the community," Walker said. "I really do think that Waterloo, Cambridge and Kitchener are booming enough and Toronto is growing outside enough that it'd be exciting. I definitely think they could do it. I don't know all the legal aspects of it but I definitely think you could support a team here. Plus, you've got all the people coming from smaller towns outside -- Woodstock, Stratford and London."

Now, it's up to Balsillie.

The Preds are his.

Maybe, they'll soon be ours.

jhicks@therecord.com

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Hey, won’t you play, another somebody done somebody wrong song!

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

Balsillie’s back in the game.




When we last left Jim Balsillie he had walked away from the table, pulled his pile of cash and left Mario Lemieux as a very angry man.

Now, a few months later, the Ontario businessman has apparently concluded negotiations with Craig Leipold of the Nashville Predators and signed a letter of intent to purchase the Tennessee franchise for 220 million US dollars. Up significantly from the 175 million that he offered for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The National Post was first with the story today, with the details of Balsillie’s purchase and the suggestion that while he will operate the team in Nashville for the 2007-08 season, he has no firm commitment there after the next year. The process is presently in the letter of intent phase with a number of reviews still to be held by both the Predators, Balsillie and the NHL.

This will once again spur on those rumours of a potential NHL franchise moving to the Kitchener-Waterloo region, the city where Balsillie’s company Research in Motion is based and just far enough out of the Toronto Maple Leaf exclusion zone to make hockey fans outside of the Greater Toronto Area sit up and take notice.

The story seemingly came out of nowhere, while it was known that the Predators owners were looking to relieve themselves of their NHL commitment, the Balsillie name hadn’t even been whispered since those fateful days in Pittsburgh.

The development will prove to be an interesting turn of events for Gary Bettman, who has been championing his southern expansion project for years now. While he may wish to try and keep his footprint in the heart of Tennessee, buyers offering that kind of money, don’t come around every day for a product with as low a profile as hockey seems to have.
It's a topic that Stephen Brunt addressed in his column in the Globe and Mail that came out shortly after the news was delivered that Balsillie was in the loop once again.

If Balsillie is adamant about relocation and wants to take his team to the Kitchener-Waterloo area, it’s hard to see how Bettman would be able to stop him, short of a lengthy court battle. Beyond that, Balsillie by offering up as much as he has, is doing the NHL a favour by keeping the value of franchises artificially high, considering the television revenues, gate receipts and marketing opportunities that seem to be in decline below the 49th parallel.

Hockey fans in Canada will be curious to see what the next move is, the Preds are an up and coming team, not quite as bountiful as the Pens would have been, but they will serve as a pretty impressive consolation prize.

It will be worth waiting for Balsillie’s first comments on the purchase and an explanation of what his plans may be both short and long term. It’s a big investment he’s made, if the story holds true over the next few days. It’s hard to see how the NHL could deny him his team regardless of what he has planned for it over time.

It’s quite appropriate that the main hunter of NHL franchises would bag himself a predator, Balsillie has been quite dedicated to his quest and as any great hunter knows, most of the hunt is taken up by patience.

Something that Balsillie seems to be rather versed in.

Balsillie to buy NHL's Predators for US$220M: reports
Scott Stinson
National Post
Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie has agreed to purchase the National Hockey League's Nashville Predators, according to multiple reports Wednesday night.

Mr. Balsillie, co-chief executive of Research In Motion, makers of the BlackBerry e-mail device, is to pay U.S. businessman Craig Leipold US$220-million for the franchise, Bloomberg News reported.

Nasvhille's NewsChannel 5 television station reported on its Web site last night that Mr. Leipold told Predators office staff "the team will remain in Nashville for at least the next season, but made no promise for the future."

Such statements will trigger speculation that Mr. Balsillie's bid for the Predators will ultimately see him attempt to move the team to Canada. He lives in Waterloo, where RIM is headquartered.

Mr. Balsillie struck a deal to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins in October, but it fell apart after the NHL tried to impose a series of 11th-hour conditions on the sale of the team.

The National Post reported in December that those conditions would have prevented the new owner from moving the Penguins for at least seven years.

Several news outlets reported last night that Mr. Leipold discussed the sale of his team with the NHL's board of governors Wednesday afternoon in New York, and that a league news conference to announced the new ownership is scheduled for Thursday.

The Tennessean newspaper said last night that the sale was at the "letter of intent" stage and was still subject to various levels of approval. In the case of the aborted Penguins transaction, more than two months elapsed before Mr. Balsillie's formal announcement of his intent to buy the team and when he walked away from the US$175-million deal.

In early October, Mr. Balsillie was giddy with delight at the prospect of owning a piece of Canadiana.

"I'm going to get my name on the [Stanley] Cup one way or the other," Mr. Balsillie told the Post.
"What Canadian boy wouldn't do it [buy an NHL team] if he could?"

While not as hot a ticket as the Penguins and their star leader Sidney Crosby, the Predators are a strong team with a bright future. It finished 51-23 with eight overtime losses this season, but was eliminated from the playoffs in the first round by the San Jose Sharks.

The Predators averaged home attendance this season of 15,260 a game, eighth-lowest in the 30-team league.

(With files from news services)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Forsberg joins the litter


The Peter Forsberg sweepstakes have come to an end, the Flyers traded the injury prone Forsberg to the Nashville Predators on Thursday night, sending him from the ahem doghouse, to the cathouse.

Forsberg will bolster the scoring touch of the Preds who seem quite serious on making this the year of the Cat in the NHL. Nashville is entering uncharted territory for their franchise, a serious contender and perhaps a favorite to come out of the West in the quest for the Stanley Cup.

Forsberg trades addresses with two players, winger Scottie Upshall and defenseman Ryan Parent, while the Preds also gave up a first-round pick and a third-round pick. The Swede will join a Predator team that has been playing some very successful and entertaining hockey of late, holding down first place in the Western Conference, seven points ahead of their nearest rival the Anaheim Ducks.

Acquiring Forsberg provided two benefits for the Predators, they of course gain some more scoring touch for their own team and more importantly kept him away from the three teams that could give them the most trouble in the playoffs.

For Forsberg it will be a chance to return to form and make the most of the rest of the season, he played out the year in Philly occasionally on the sidelines suffering a foot problem, just the latest of injuries in his star crossed NHL career. If there’s a malady to be had by a hockey player, ask Peter he’ll probably be able to tell the tale from diagnosis to treatment.

If he remains healthy he will provide the Nashville collective with some added punch to their offence, he will also add some zip to his status as an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. However, he has mentioned from time to time this season that he may just retire at the end of the year, so this may be last shot at a final Stanley Cup in the NHL.

For now he’s a rental player, a hired gun brought in just before the February 27th trading deadline, one of the most recognized of names in the game at the moment. He might be the BIG NAME of the trading season, arriving a week and a half before the deadline.

His arrival in Nashville may move a few dominoes in the West as the GM”s of the other would be contenders reassess their plans and try to find that one piece to the puzzle that will push them towards Stanley as well.