Thursday, May 24, 2007

Latest Report: Balsillie purchasing Nashville Predators -- are they Hamilton bound?

So here we go again.

It looks like Balsillie and the owner of the Nashville Predators have come to an agreement on the sale of the franchise, pending league approval. I wonder if the league will stipulate that the team needs to remain in Nashville as a condition of the sale (like they did with the Penguins).

I'm not getting excited about this latest development for several reasons.

1. NHL's persistent dislike of Hamilton.
2. Apparently, the idea that Hamilton is right in between the Buffalo and Toronto markets, whereas Kitchener-Waterloo is not, has been in recent headlines. Does this make sense to anyone? K-W isn't that much further out, are they?
3. Hamilton City Hall does not seem to be as excited about bringing an NHL team to Hamilton as they were during the Morrow years. I really do hope that if this deal goes through we get our best people involved to make relocating a team to Hamilton as desirable as possible. This might be our last real chance.
4. There is a real threat that instead of Hamilton, Balsillie will move the team to K-W. I hope Balsillie is sensitive to NHL history and knows that it would be easy to resurrect the Hamilton Tigers and build a hockey culture around such a club.

If Balsillie moves a team to Kitchener-Waterloo, the NHL will lose a fan for life because that would eliminate any chance of Hamilton getting a team.

Having said all that, there are a few reasons why there might be a glint of hope.

1. Keeping the team in Nashville would be a losing enterprise. It's been losing money for 10 years, and Balsillie isn't the type of person who loses money.
2. Balsillie seems very keen on getting a team, any team. I doubt he would want his NHL legacy to be in Nashville. Of all the places he could have located RIM, he picked Southern Ontario.
3. He's a savvy business man--Hamilton would be the optimal place for business. Not only does Hamilton have the history, they are optimally located to reach out to the most fans (Hamilton is the heart of the Golden Horseshoe, Canada's most populous region).
4. Hamilton's downtown is experiencing a renaissance. Bringing an NHL team to the core would facilitate this process, making Balsillie's legacy more than just about hockey.
5. People in Nashville do not seem to care that the team might leave. In fact, many people are hoping relocation is in the plans.
6. Balsillie's wife is from Hamilton. Would give them a great opportunity to visit family (or keep his wife occupied while he enjoys Hamilton Tigers Hockey).

Ok, so maybe I am getting a little excited.