Oh Sure, This Is Going To Work
Nobody, absolutely nobody, outside of the group that has very tentatively purchased the Nashville Predators believes the NHL can work long-term in that city.
This is a mess that's going to get worse before the team is shifted to Kansas City, a shame, really, when the best hockey market in the world in southern Ontario is ready, willing and able to welcome another franchise.
It seemed a little fishy when a Nashville-based collection of businessmen said they'd concluded a deal with Craig Leipold to buy the Preds early this month for far less money than Jim Balsillie had offered. Now comes the news reported in The Tennessean today that this new group is already demanding changes in lease agreements and other tax considerations that could cost Nashville taxpayers upwards of $5 million a year.
So Balsillie was a maverick and a kook that the NHL didn't want. But guys whose first move is to go hat in hand to the tax trough - those are the guys this league wants!
What's incredible, of course, is that the Predators already received the greatest sweetheart deal in the history of sports sweetheart deals when they landed in Nashville in the first place as an expansion franchise. The building was built for them and the city gave them millions of dollars just for bringing the team there.
Now - more please.
If Nashville wants to pay for this, well, good for them. It's not that different from Pittsburgh, really, where local politicians and taxpayers believe getting into bed with gambling interests is an appropriate way to fund a new hockey arena.
But it can't possibly work long-term. Short-term, meanwhile, the team won't be as good as last season and the new owners conveniently still hold the right to opt out of the current lease if attendance falls below 14,000 this season.
And why wouldn't it?
The NHL has botched this entire issue from the start, mostly because Gary Bettman got his back up over Balsillie and his legal representatives. But instead of fixing the problems, Bettman has simply engineered a situation that could turn uglier yet.
Then again, maybe Nashville citizens and their political representatives will just tell the new Preds owners to take a hike, and maybe this latest deal falls apart as well.
Wouldn't it be fun if the Bettman administration was forced to go back to Balsillie?