Friday, August 10, 2007
The saga that has been the Predators' off-season
This year has been a roller-coaster of emotions for Predators players and management and fans alike. It has seen the departure of Tomas Vokoun, Paul Kariya leaving for rival club St. Louis, Kimo Timonen, and Scott Hartnell traded to the Flyers for our own first round draft pick originally traded for Peter Forsberg, and the state of limbo that was the letter of intent to sell to Canadian Entrepreneur and Hockey fan Jim Basillie.
So forgive me for breathing a sigh of relief when Craig Leopold did the honorable thing and agreed to sell the franchise to a group of local investors including David Freeman, CEO of 36 Venture Capital, Herb Fritch, CEO of Healthsprings, and William “Boots” Del Biaggio, President and CEO of SandHill Capital. The sale still has to be approved by the NHL’s Board of Governors which meet again on September the 30th, but a major hurdle has been cleared in terms of keeping the Predators in Nashville for the next few years.
What will ultimately determine the Predators' fate long-term is the amount of corporate support that can be garnered by this new group of owners. During the Predators' first two years, approximately 4,000 businesses owned season tickets. Today, only 1,800 businesses have season tickets.making up about 35% of the season ticket base. The average in other markets is around 60%.
Another curiosity is the inclusion of Del Biaggio in the deal. He is a limited partner in the San Jose Sharks, and originally had a deal on the table to purchase the Predators for $190 million with the intent of moving the franchise to Kansas City and starting fresh. One would think that his inclusion in this group denotes a hidden agenda on his part; perhaps to buy out the other owners if they continue to lose money and grow tired of it.
What we can do as fans of the game (and if you've never played hockey or had any interest in it, learn the rules and watch a game or two, you'll be hooked. Heck pick up a copy of NHL '07 for nineteen bucks. It will help you learn the rules quickly. I have spent more time playing this game than I have ever spent playing Madden.) is to support our Predators the only way we can, buy tickets and go to games.
The Predators' games supersede even the Titans games in terms of excitement and enthusiasm. Cell Block 303 is fired up every game and leads the chants. Where else can you go and hear a customized version of Tim McGraw's "I Like it I Love it", or the chants of "SUCKS!" after the announcement of each player on the opposing teams starting line-up?
Whether it is within your means to purchase a full season, a flex pack for $221, or $17 tickets to a game when you aren't doing anything else on a Saturday night, you will not regret doing it. You will be smitten with "Fang Fever" and become a fan for life.
I never followed hockey prior to 2001 but I have been a huge fan ever since and rarely miss a game whether it is on FSN, Vs., or the broadcast on 104.5 the Zone. Pete Weber and Terry Crisp are the best group of broadcasters in Tennessee for any sport and few realize the talent they are missing out on.
Here is to keeping the Preds in Nashville long-term and to many more years of fantastic hockey. And by the way, when you make it out to the Somet Center drop by 302 and say, "hey". I'll be the guy in the yellow Tootoo jersey yelling the loudest.