Thursday, May 24, 2007

No more Nashville

Doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out that Jim Balsillie is buying the Preds for one reason - move them to the Great White North. That's why he went after the Pens, and when that fell through, up step the Predators...owners of three straight playoff trips, and the 22nd best attendance in the league.

Personally, I'm a huge fan of Nashville and attending hockey games there. I've been to two playoff games, two regular season games, the '03 draft, and our annual pilgrimage for the Country Classic in August. There's a lot to do in Nashville beyond the game, so it makes for a great road trip, especially considering it's within six hours of Columbus.

But, it looks like my days to make trips down for NHL hockey are officially numbered, and that number might be less than 365. The good folks of Nashville, the die hards that do the fang fingers for every power play, have done their part. However, the corporate support isn't there. From some of Leipold's letter to the fans of Nashville posted in Spector's Blog, corporate support is around 35% for the Preds. The average in the other NHL markets puts corporate support at 60%. My guess is that the corporations of Nashville are all too willing to throw some money towards the Titans, but when it comes time to pony up for the Preds they tighten the purse strings.

The Preds have had 10 years to develop a fan base. Seems that the individual fans are doing OK. From speaking to some people while I was down there in April, the youth leagues and adult leagues are growing, like they should after people get introduced to the beauty of the sport. So, the grassroots part of building a market is underway, but the corporate dollar isn't. In the current NHL landscape, that's no way to keep your franchise.

So, the Preds will most likely move north of the border where the team will be embraced by legions of hockey fans and the victims of the move will be the fans in Nashville who have followed the team this far. They suffered through the early years of expansion and finally got to the playoffs a year ahead of the lockout. The lockout probably did a good job of killing the momentum in Nashville, not to mention putting an end to Wolfy's outstanding chili-cheeseburger.

For Leipold, who's done his best to garner support and money for his team and make it flourish in the South, it's time to cut bait or fish...and his line's been in the water for about 10 years now.

No comments: