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Paul Nicholson
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Friday, October 12, 2007

You're kidding, right?

It isn't April Fools. The site isn't The Onion.

But this has got to be a joke:

The Research In Motion co-CEO is the owner of a group that has approached the NHL team with an offer to buy it if the deal with the current bidders fails.

According to a letter sent to Nashville's Metro Sports Authority, Balsillie is now committed to keeping the team in Nashville and winning a Stanley Cup there.

The letter also states that Balsillie's understanding of the Nashville market earlier this year was "incorrect."

The Nashville Post has a story about it too.

They say:
The Research In Motion chairman made a proposal that wouldn't change the Sommet Center's lease terms for the benefit of the team. In fact, he offered to substantially increase the penalty for terminating the license agreement.
And later, quotes an article from Balsillie's new Nashville-based spokesman for the issue:
He is now committed to Nashville as a viable hockey market, one in which he strongly desires to own a franchise; and that he will commit the resources that are necessary to lead to a Stanley Cup for the Predators and Nashville. He is also keenly aware of the recent outpouring of support of the Predators by the community, and our concrete expressions that hockey and the Predators are important to Nashville. Along these lines, Jim has assured me that he would welcome, but not require, local partners as a part of the ownership team
Now, don't get me wrong. I said way back when Balsillie first made the offer and hadn't shown what most would call his "true colors" (by being a jerk and starting to sell tickets for the team in Hamilton, Ontario), i was bullish on the idea of a guy who was this passionate about hockey and had pockets this deep. He will be a great owner for whatever team he ends up with eventually. I would like that to be my team. I just want it to be in Nashville.

At this point, he'd have to forgo the "out" clause in the lease with the city entirely and lock himself with no options before anyone in Nashville would believe that he has suddenly "seen the light". Nashville would have to tread very very carefully here. Make sure Balsillie can't just yank the team. But if they can...

I still think beyond having an owner with passion and deep pockets, the Preds would still do well by cashing in on Del Biaggio's connections to AEG and forming ties with the group to manage the arena. It would mean more events and more profitability for the franchise/arena/city.

Most of all, i just wish people would quit jerking us around. I am fully convinced that the low attendance to date is largely due to the ownership mess being up in the air. Get that settled and fans will get behind this team (win or lose). Apparently Balsillie sees that now... maybe.

The other thing worth mentioning here, is that the local group is still the only one that can negotiate with current owner Craig Leipold. This new communication has actually been made to the city, as Leipold can't talk with anyone else until the end of October. Shrewed way of getting the message out there without going around the contract. I think Balsillie may be learning after all.

The Predators just released this statement: “We are committed to completing the sale of the Nashville Predators to David Freeman and his investor group."

On a slightly different, but related note:

When we were at the Dallas Stars game the other week, we sat in front of two guys from Toronto. This isn't the first time we've sat near guys from Toronto, down to watch a game. They loved it, and just like everyone else from up north that has come to see the Preds play, were in awe at the fans chants, support, yelling, and generally making things fun. Apparently they just sit on their hands and watch the game in Toronto (until they start yelling for the goalie's job in the pre-season). Anyway - turns out these guys happen to be NHL refs, down to do a few games. It was a unique experience to say the least. I also got to talk to them about the injury = match penalty issue. They said the league felt 9and apparently they agreed) that most NHL refs had been around long enough to know when a guy was faking an injury. I still don't buy it.

Good times.

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