So one week after Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie agreed to buy the Nashville Predators, it seems a company owned by Balsillie has entered into an exclusive agreement to negotiate a lease with the 17,000-seat Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, the National Post reports today.
According to the story, Hamilton city council passed a motion Wednesday night to enter into talks with Golden Horseshoe Entertainment with the intention of hammering out — as it were — a lease agreement in the next two weeks. Both sides are playing down the deal, saying that a lease agreement by no means guarantees that the NHL is coming to Hamilton.
Balsillie has told the league previously that he has no concrete plans to move the Preds out of Nashville. But it's worth noting that the club's lease agreement with Gaylord Entertainment Center apparently has an escape clause built in that would allow the owner to pull up stakes should the team fail to sell an average of 14,000 tickets for two straight seasons. If sales fail to rise above that mark the pursuant season, the club would be allowed to move without
"I'm hoping his intentions are sincere. I think the issue here is in fact where the NHL stands on moving any team to the city of Hamilton," Councilor Terry Whitehead said.
Officials with Golden Horseshoe played down expectations of a move last night.
"It is simply a contingency plan in the unlikely event that the Predators' arena lease terminates prior to its normal course of expiration," said Richard Rodier, the company's president."It has absolutely no meaning or effect whatsoever in the absence of a consent from the NHL that has been granted in accordance with its constitution and bylaws," Mr. Rodier said.
Nashville currently has the eighth-lowest attendance in the league, with an average of just over 15,200 fans showing up every game to watch one of the best teams in the NHL.