Thursday, May 31, 2007

Hammer time

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.

"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.
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

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.

Interesting stuff.


Sherry said...

Copps Coliseum is good enough for a NHL team...were we still in 1992.

Lord Bob said...

Hey, if an NHL team can honestly play in the Northlands shanty we jokingly call "Rexall Place", why can't a team survive in Copps?

- Not Cal Nichols. Really.

- (Pat LaForge, actually)

jon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jon said...

There's apparently a brand new arena going up in the area that is under construction as we speak. Should probably be done before the next two seasons expire. Can we hope and pray that Nashville inexplicably allows their veteran UFAs to leave in order to "cut costs," while also having the completely unexpected result of having a losing team that fails to draw 14000 spectators a night? I certainly hope so as it would certainly be to the favour of the Oilers.

Stan the Caddy said...

Could Copps just be a place for the team to play while the a new rink is built in Cambridge?

My understanding is that Hamilton is within the allowable limits of both Toronto and Buffalo so I couldn't see a team put there permanently since I'm sure MLSE and the Sabres would do everything they could to stop it.

Also, while they may have averaged 15,200, the escape clause refers to PAID attendance which I heard was in the 13000 range this past season. All Balsillie has to do is price the tickets near Maple Leaf levels and he'll be outta there by the end of next season. Copps would be a good staging area while the new building is finished.

It's too bad we can only speculate, I'd love to get inside Balsillie's head and find out exactly what he is planning. All I know for sure is I'd love to have an exciting team at an (relatively) affordable price close to Toronto. Hamilton, Cambridge, doesn't matter to me.

Sherry said...

I actually don't think Hamilton is within the allowable limits...I'm not too sure what the number is exactly, though. I think Kitchener-Waterloo is outside of the area, though. If they decide to go with Hamilton though, they'll most likely have to pay both Toronto and Buffalo indemnification, which I'm sure Balsillie has the resources to do.

One of my marketing professors was on the Copps Coliseum board back when they were trying to bring the NHL back into Hamilton and he says given the current state, it would need at least $5 Million in renovations and add-ons before it would actually be ready. Plus, where would the Bulldogs [baby Habs] play? It might be easier to let the Bulldogs keep Copps and build a new stadium altogether.

Black Dog said...

Sherry - Bulldogs could play there as well, I would think. I know nothing about Copps but would they not have a lot of empty nights? Of course, the real issue might be attendance.

I would think maybe Balsillie would have to pay something but how much? Just a token amount if he moves west.

I actually read paid attendance was more around 12000 and the other issue is how many of those are discounted. I lived in Tampa and there were plenty of freebies and discounted tickets.

Stan the Caddy said...

I lived in Tampa and there were plenty of freebies and discounted tickets.

Don't get me started on Tampa. I was there for a golf trip and it just so happened the Habs were in town. We drove almost two hours out of our way to see one of the most exciting teams play one of the most storied franchises in sport. The building was barely half full, but meanwhile the Habs and Leafs only go to western Canada once every three years. I'm sure glad there's two teams in Florida.

Also, I heard Bob Cole say last night "they're really getting into their hockey down here in Anaheim."

Isn't that what they said about Raleigh last year and Tampa two years before that? And Miami in '96 or Anaheim in '03? Sorry, but there's only two teams allowed to compete in the finals each year but there's way more than that who rely on that success to create interest in their market. I guess the answer is to give more free tickets to celebrities. That's gotta be the solution!

If only we had more billionaires that wanted to buy up all those mistakes.

Sherry said...

Black Dog - They might be able to but as far as I know they also host some amateur teams as well. It's also sort of the only facility of its size in Hamilton so most of other major events are scheduled there whenever they roll into town.

Attendance for the Bulldogs playoffs haven't been great. I don't think they've reached over 10,000 ever despite the fact they've been making a deep run and they've only drawn over 11,000 once during the regular season, and that was for Carey Price's debut. That would probably change with an actual NHL team though, since it's not a long drive from Toronto or Buffalo. Copps is located in Downtown, it's pretty easy to get there both by driving and public transit, but it is located on the side of the city where the university is, ergo a lot of transplants.

They would have to pay indemnification if they go into Hamilton though. MLSE has a lot of sway in the league and they most likely wouldn't allow it to even happen, not that they would have any concern to be honest. I think when Anaheim came into the league they had to pay $20 million to LA.

Anonymous said...

Off topic, but still... anyone see this on TSN last night from Bob McKenzie?

Keep an eye on the Oilers

In the days leading up to the NHL Entry Draft, be sure to keep an eye on the Edmonton Oilers. They have three first round picks, including the sixth pick overall. But there is another reason and it's that Oilers' General Manger Kevin Lowe is big game hunting.

Between now and the July 1 free agency period, Lowe would love to add a pair of top-six forwards and a quality defenceman.

Lots of people think there's a better chance of doing that via the trade market than by free agency and Lowe has a lot of currency from which to deal.

He has the three first round picks and an entire roster of players that are not untouchable especially after the way the team finished the season after the Ryan Smyth trade.

The Oilers would love to get a guy like Brad Richards from the Lightning. With Tampa's expanding budget, Richards isn't likely available but that's the type of splashy and bold move that Lowe would like to pull off.

There's no guarantee that a big Oiler trade will happen, and if one doesn't, it won't be for a lack of trying.