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Is Nashville And Hockey A Good Fit?

Posted by Ryne E. Hancock on November 18, 2007

For many years, both Memphis and Nashville fought tooth and nail to lure major professional teams to Tennessee.

Memphis tried to bring pro football, only to be left with teams from the CFL, the XFL, and the Arena League while Nashville tried to lure the New Jersey Devils and the Sacramento Kings.

In the end, however, after years and years of trying, Tennessee’s capital city would draw first blood in the race for major professional sports in the state, luring the Oilers to Tennessee in 1997 and the Predators a year later to the Sommet Center, forcing Memphis to wait three years until they too would get a chance to have major professional sports in the city.

But while the Oilers/Titans have found solid footing financially, as well as a rabid fan base, since arriving in Tennessee over a decade ago, the Predators have been the complete opposite — although they’ve made the playoffs three straight times and play in one of the great showplaces for hockey in the Southeast.

Last week, Davidson County and Predators officials came together to agree on changing the current lease at the Sommet Center therefore keeping the team under local ownership and quelling the intentions of the franchise being moved to some Canadian outpost.

Despite the fact that the team will, for all intents and purposes, remain in Middle Tennessee for at least four to five years, the only way that the Predators can pull out of Nashville is if they have a continued run of operating losses of two to three years.

And if you look at the attendance so far at the Sommet Center, the odds of the Predators staying in Nashville are almost similar to the same odds I have of winning the Powerball drawing on Wednesday night.

Bajillion-to-one.

This season, the Predators have averaged, through Friday, a shade over 12,000 for their home games, surprising numbers for a team that could be in the hunt for the playoffs come January or Feburary.

And after reading some of the comments by not only fans, but elected officials in the Tennessean, the long-term future could very well be an additional two years.

“I don’t think this is a hockey town,” councilman Michael Craddock said to the Tennessean.

Duh.

When you have an ice arena in suburban Nashville that, in the near future, will be home to volleyball and basketball games, that alone tells you that your city is not a hockey hotbed.

With the closure of Southern Ice Arena in Cool Springs, only one ice rink will be available to the public in Middle Tennessee.

But if you look back at the list of cities that have had the Stanley Cup (Anaheim, Raleigh, and Tampa Bay) the term “hockey town” would be just something that would have no weight in importance.

The reason why those teams in those cities I mentioned became successful not only on the ice but also in the stands was because they had excellent marketing departments as well as great fan support.

Something that the Predators unfortunately, don’t have at their fingertips.

It doesn’t matter how many appearances the players make around Middle Tennessee promoting the team, it takes effort and dedication from the front office.

Because if those two things don’t happen, then the people of Middle Tennessee will lose out on the Predators.

But at the rate that it’s going for the team, despite the new deal with the arena, the foot that’s asleep is about to join that other foot in the grave for the Predators.

And it’s going to be sooner than we think.

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