Not that this is a surprise, but it is still significant: The Predators did exercise their "cure" clause in the lease with the city.
Of slightly bigger news is that the Predators can break their lease with the city, even if we sell 14,000 tickets. All the owner has to do is pay a $27mil fee for "damages". Now, the NHL has said that if a lease is in place when an owner buys a team, the team cannot move for 7 years. That would presumably mean that an owner cannot break the lease themselves, but if the lease lapses on its own because of time, or in this case, attendance, that the owner is allowed to leave.
I have to wonder though (nervously) if the NHL does want Balsillie to move the Preds after all, if they wouldn't try to call this a "buy out" instead of breaking the lease, and thus allow him to move the team.
I want the Predators to stay. I would rather Balsillie not be the owner, but i'll take what we can. But i also do understand that 14,000 sold seats or not, the Predators are years away from being a profitable franchise in Nashville (without putting the team salaries on the floor anyway). With that said, from a business point of view the move makes sense. From a marketing point of view i don't think it does. But then again, putting the league on the Outdoor Living Network (now the All Fight Channel, AKA Versus) instead of giving the rights away to ESPN after the lockout doesn't make marketing sense either. Just short term financial sense.
As horrified as i am to say this, i really think that our best hope for keeping the Predators in Nashville lies in 1) Bettman's pride and 2) the greed of the Leafs and Sabres ownership. I think that the corporate sponsors and potential owners in the area are a safety net that could catch the team if this Balsillie mess all blows up, but it isn't a serious option on its own merits right now. If it was, they should/would have come forward last spring when Leipold asked for partial ownership from locals.
On a related but random note: discussion on Paul McCann's latest post tonight (at 5:00pm on a Friday) was a little lighter than usual, but still rather heated. I didn't get to read until we got home from hanging out with friends, but one person pointed out that 30 minutes after Paul posted the story, no one from Nashville had commented yet, but many from Toronto, Buffalo, Vancouver, etc had, and that this somehow demonstrated the lack of true fans in Nashville. However, someone else accurately pointed out, i think, that this only means that people in Nashville have something better to do on a Friday night in the middle of the summer.
I think that may be the Predators problem: Nashville is too great a city. Too many options and things to do. I guess that isn't the case in some cities that are more "deserving" of hockey. Touché.
And oh yeah - by my calculations we're about 13 weeks from the start of training camp.
(one more time, happy anniversary to us)