Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Are the Nashville Predators in Financial Trouble Again?

Posted By on Wed, Feb 4, 2009 at 12:00 PM

click to enlarge Shea_20Weber.jpg
The Toronto Sun seems to think so, but it's not just the Predators the paper calls out. It notes that the NHL as a whole is taking a beating, particularly in the southeast.

It's of little doubt the NHL's southern expansion has been a disaster. The league thought it could push a regional sport on areas with no hockey tradition--at the same time it reduced fighting, which tended to be its gateway to new fans. So teams in Atlanta, Miami, Tampa and Phoenix have languished for years. Add in a wretched economy, and you have the recipe for a multi-million dollar fiasco.

Some of this is simply due to bad management or substandard arenas. It's no coincidence that the roster of financially troubled teams have also built a tradition of sucking on the ice. But since few wealthy people want to buy into hockey, and there's few northern markets left to house relocated teams, don't be surprised if the NHL is forced to kill off its weaker siblings. And one may well be the Predators, says the Sun...

"The team can't score on the ice, or with fans. Management revealed it considered buying thousands of unsold tickets so it can qualify for a full share of the NHL's revenue sharing plan. Through 22 home games, the Predators' average paid attendance was 256 tickets short of the 14,000 average required for a full share of the revenue-sharing pool that netted the team $12 million last season.

The plan gives small-market clubs money that the NHL collects from the 10 highest-earning teams. The amount franchises receive falls if certain attendance figures aren't achieved.

Predators lead owner David Freeman made an estimated $50 million selling a medical waste disposal business. So, when it comes to waste you'd think an expert like Freeman would recognize it even if it was disguised as a hockey team. But, he says his reputation as a businessman is at stake, and he wants to make hockey work here. So, as for Jim Balsillie buying and moving the team?

"There is no Plan B," Freeman said.

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