Well, here we go. Off to Nashville for tonight's game against the Coyotes and Saturday's against the Red Wings.
I've wanted to make this trip for a while. Here's what I wrote about the Predators back in June, 2007, when Craig Leipold was trying to dump the team and Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie wanted to buy and move the club to Southern Ontario:
Nashville, quite simply, has proven it cannot sustain an NHL hockey team. Even with the lowest ticket prices in the entire league ... and a ridiculously forgiving arena lease, the team has had attendance issues despite having one of the best records in the league.
It's not a matter of Canadians not wanting teams in the southern U.S.; I've argued time and again in favour of teams like Dallas and Tampa Bay that have supported their teams and really brought something to the table in terms of bringing news fans and new energy to the game. That's a good thing.
The Predators, however, are not that, not in the beginning and certainly not now, and they never will be. Even with an owner as forgiving and deep-pocketed as Craig Leipold, the experiment has failed miserably, and the team will be leaving as soon as it can extricate itself from its lease agreement.
At the moment, it appears I was wrong.
Local ownership arrived to save the day — at least temporarily — and despite the disastrous addition of Boots Del Biaggio as a partner, they have reportedly made some strides in solidifying the team in the market.
The future of this club, however, is far from certain, and none of us truly knows if the Predators are staying for good. I'm looking forward to seeing the Sommet Center and a few games, hanging out downtown and meeting some Predators fans. It'll give me a great idea of what's happening in the market.
Maybe then I'll have a better handle on how safe hockey in Nashville really is.