Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Scott Burnside at ESPN,
There is something of the tragic-comic hero in Gary Bettman and his manipulation of the sale—or nonsale, as is currently the case—of the Nashville Predators.
So determined is Bettman to prove that his vision of the NHL as a great American sporting presence is unassailable, so determined is he that his handiwork shall be his living monument to himself and the sport, that Bettman has painted himself into a tiny, uncomfortable corner.
How he emerges from this corner—if at all—will say much about his legacy and, indeed, the look and health of the NHL for years to come.
from Elliotte Friedman of the CBC,
I don’t know if that Bettman was kidnapped by aliens or was the greatest living actor not named Edward Norton. But, that commissioner is gone. In his place is a guy standing in the middle of a Nashville street, staring northward with his middle finger up in the air. Yes, this obscene gesture is directed at the hockey fans driving revenue growth since the lockout….
You have to wonder, though, if there is any chance Bettman’s power base is eroding. Not only is he killing a bad that will inflate the value of other teams, but salaries are reaching/surpassing pre-lockout levels. The new minimum of $34.3 million is higher than 10 team payrolls from 2004-05. All-Star and Stanley Cup ratings set all-time lows in the United States. Plus, if he accepts this above-market bid, he can still make the other teams some expansion money by adding Kansas City and Vegas if he wishes.
From Tim Wharnsby at the Globe & Mail,
“For Nashville to keep the team and make it a viable team, the number we need to be looking at is 16,000, not 14,000,” David Freeman told The Tennessean. “You don’t want to be at the absolute league minimum on salary cap because I don’t think anybody wants a team that is here but is habitually in last place. Certainly, our investor group, that’s not what we want, either.
“So to have a team that’s also above the league minimum salary cap, we’re right back to that 16,000 number.”
The salary floor in the NHL next season will be $34.3-million. Right now, the Predators have a payroll of slightly more than $30-million.
from the Tennessean,
The Predators can stay in Nashville by averaging 14,000 in paid attendance this season, but a leader of a local group bidding for the team said the average needs to be 16,000 for owners to break even.
The Predators have never averaged 16,000 — their highest average was 15,364 in 1999-2000 — and with about three months to go until the 2007-08 season begins, they have about 7,000 season-ticket holders. That’s about where they were at this time last year, the team said.
from the Tennessean,
So when it was time to sign a new contract last month, Nichol had a difficult decision: Should he stay in Music City despite the uncertainty of the franchise’s situation following this season, or should he hit the open market and find a more stable destination?
In the end, he decided that sticking with a city, an organization and teammates he appreciated outweighed the fear of the unknown.
From AM570 News,
It was a very frank discussion in an exclusive interview with Jim Balsillie’s lawyer Richard Rodier on 570’s Prime Time Sports last night.
Rodier says Commissioner Gary Bettman is against having more teams in Canada, and believes his client Jim Balisille is being treated differently because of his desire to move the Nashville Predators to Hamilton.
During the interview Rodier says he believes a gag order has been put into place, covering the NHL’s Board of Governors regarding the deal.
From Steve Milton at The Hamilton Spectator,
Your Intent Please: Despite the ripple of semi-news that a local group has put in an offer to buy the Nashville Predators and keep them in Tennessee, current owner Craig Leipold still has received no letters of intent.
Not from the consortium of local businessmen led by David Freedman and Herb Fritch, both executives in the health-care business. Not from William ‘Boots’ Del Biaggio III, who would reportedly move the team to Kansas City.
A letter of intent would give either of those groups the right to exclusive negotiations on buying the team.
The Nashville-based syndicate has been percolating for several weeks and Leipold said two weeks ago that he’d consider giving them a “local discount.” But their proposal is believed to be well below the $190-million figure at which DelBiaggio bowed out of the bidding in May. Waterloo billionaire Jim Balsillie won that auction with a letter of intent for an estimated $238 million, but his exclusivity ended two weeks ago.
from David Climer of the Tennessean,
It is a slap back to reality. With the franchise up for sale, owner Craig Leipold is playing it close to the vest and tight to the wallet.
All of which means the Predators are back in their comfort zone. This franchise was born as an expansion team with a roster of no-names. Many of its best days came as an underdog overachiever. This was The Little Team That Could.
Perhaps it is the team’s birthright. Some organizations are more comfortable at higher altitudes and with loftier salaries. Not the Preds. They seem best suited to squeezing the most out of every dollar.
From Tim Wharnsby at the Globe & Mail (Wednesday’s edition),
The Nashville Predators have a third party officially involved in what has become a turtle race to purchase the struggling National Hockey League franchise.
A local group, headed by health-care executives David Freeman and Herb Fritch and containing nearly 30 investors, put forth its bid to buy the Predators and keep them in Nashville.
The group’s spokesperson, lawyer Chase Cole, and Predators’ senior vice-president of communications Gerry Helper would not confirm the local syndicate’s proposal to team owner Craig Leipold, but a source connected with the group answered in the affirmative.
from the Tennessean,
“I was holding out hope until we talked to (Predators General Manager David Poile) four or five days before free agency,’’ Poile said. “He said there was nothing he could do. His hands were tied.
“With the ownership situation there and so much uncertainty to where the team is going to be and what was going to go on, we had to take a look and see what was out there.’‘
Kariya said he thought about signing a one-year contract with the Predators, secure in the knowledge the team would definitely be in Nashville this coming season. But the 32-year-old left wing wasn’t comfortable with the uncertainty that might follow.
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