This just in.
were just are being sold to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie (the guy that owns Research in Motion - the Blackberry guys). This is the guy that tried openly to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins last year and move them to Canada.
What We "Know":
Random Quotes...as of 11:09pm central
"It is believed as of now that the team will remain in Nashville for the forseeable future"Also, it is apparently official. According to Paul McCann, who aside from being a hockey blogger, is the PA announcer for the Predators at the Sommet Center (that is still taking some getting used to).
"a press conference has been scheduled for tomorrow to announce the sale of the team"
"The Nashville Predators will soon be sold to Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie for $220 million, media sources reported Wednesday evening." (Leipold bought/started the team for $80 million)
"Leipold met with the NHL Board of Governors at 2 p.m. Wednesday in New York, and then told his staff of the developments."
Gerry Helper, Preds VP of communications: "We're not confirming or denying or issuing any kind of statement at this time"
"Leipold told the Predators' front office personnel that the team will remain in Nashville for at least the next season, but made no promised for the future."
News broke here, here, here, and here. Also here, here, here, here, and here. Canadian media here. And probably other places.
An interesting note: The blogs got the news first (of course) and the AP is way more negative on Nashville and our chances of keeping the team. Bloomberg and most bloggers are saying the team will likely be here for a while. SI still doesn't have anything posted (now they do), but Wikipedia's page on Jim Balsille has already been updated, listing him as the Preds owner. Of course, the Predators page doesn't yet.
What is also amazing is that this story was really broken by the Nashville Post (who?). I've never read them before but they just scooped everyone else big-time, and i just became a reader. Still nothing on the Tennessean's site (update: now it's here). The City Paper (my previous preference) at least said that Leipold is "close to selling the team". In general, it looks like Channel 5 and the City Paper are leading the pack in coverage from local sources.
Opinion and Speculation:
As Paul McCann said, this throws everything into question. Could be awesome. Or he could immediately exercise the out clause the Predators have with the city (which honestly Liepold would have been dumb not to do himself) and start the wheels for the team to move. He has many times in the past expressed a desire to have another team in north, even another in the Toronto area (which could easily support an additional team).
FYI: the deadline for the team to notify the city of its intent to exercise the attendance-based out clause in their contract is June 19th (60 days after the end of the season). Even if they do exercise that clause, the city can always buy the extra tickets and prevent the move. The team would have to stay here. And honestly, given the sweet deal with the city that the team has, they would REALLY have to have a lot of money to throw away to move the team...which i guess Balsillie does...
On the other hand, this could be the boost the team needed. A Canadian (read: long-time, hardcore) hockey fan takes over the team to make it a quality product on the ice (which it has been) and off the ice (not so much lately). We could get new coaches after all (though he'd have to fire them since Leipold just resigned them) and he could invest major money in major players, which Liepold did some, but these pockets go much deeper.
On the Owners:
"He was Athlete of the Year at Trinity College, University of Toronto, plays hockey and golf at competitive levels, and coaches his son's soccer and basketball teams."I don't think you could say that about good 'ol Craig.
Quote from Leipold last week when the Sommet Center announcement was made:
"When I'm talking with people, it's all under the provision that this team is staying in Nashville, and if you're interested, come on and we'll continue to talk. Those people are the ones I'm restricting it to, the ones who have an interest in maintaining a team in Nashville.''Of course, at the time we all thought he meant a minority owner.
Channel 4 just had Vern Fiddler and Darcy Hordichuck interviewed by phone. They were both shocked and hadn't heard anything about it. Hordichuck (an unrestricted free agent without a contract) said that Leipold seemed excited about the team.
Channel 5 interviewed Chris Mason and Shea Weber. Neither of them knew anything about it either. Mason also said he was wondering what changes in personnel might be coming as a result.
And there has already been a "Save the Predators" group started on Facebook.
Related Pictures: here.