Balls Out, Bags In?

Word is coming this morning that Nashville Predators owner Craig Leipold is calling off his deal with Jim Balsillie, and is instead prepared to sell the team to "Boots" DelBiaggio, who has a contract in place to run an NHL team in Kansas City.

As I wrote back in March, however, I still don't understand why Kansas City is such an attractive market for the NHL. Yes, they have a new arena that's waiting for a full-time permanent tenant, and the city is willing to bend over backwards to lure a team. But that market is already saturated with two major-league teams (the NFL Chiefs and MLB Royals), as pointed out by bizjournals.com last year. The Chiefs are well supported but the Royals are nothing more than a AAA feeder team for the rest of Major League Baseball, due to their minimal payroll and tepid fan support. In that analysis, KC ranked as the 5th-most overextended sports market, and was the most overextended market that doesn't already have an NHL team (this spreadsheet has all the details).

Simply put, there's good reason to believe that Kansas City may be the absolute worst place in the U.S. to put an NHL team. There just doesn't appear to be the available disposable income to support the teams they already have, let alone adding a new franchise to the mix.

For Predators fans concerned about possible relocation, there is more uncertainty around DelBiaggio's bid than there is with Balsillie, who said one thing publicly about respecting leases, but whose actions belied a clear intent to move the team to Hamilton ASAP. Is DelBiaggio more willing to play by the NHL's rules, or is he simply more savvy in pursuing his goals than the brash Balsillie? We'll have to see how this develops over the next few weeks.

Also lurking in the background is a potential bid by local businessmen in Nashville, which may come in the next few days. That bid would involve raising a little over half the capital and borrowing the rest, so I wouldn't think it holds as much clout as a cash-in-hand offer such as we've seen from "Boots & Balls".

On the local lease front, the push for support appears to be meeting with some success. New season ticket sales are up over last season, and even some of the Preds players are looking into buying season tickets in an effort to help hit the 14,000 mark and keep the team in Nashville. Local fans still have a chance to prove they deserve to keep NHL hockey in town, and while we're still early in the game, the signs are encouraging so far.

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