I wanted to make sure that everyone here takes a look over at From the Rink, where yesterday James Mirtle ran an interview that he landed with David Freeman, the leader of the local ownership group that kept NHL hockey in Nashville. While he understandably couldn't discuss topics like Boots Del Biaggio or the mess in Phoenix, it provides some insight to the motivations and strategy at work within the Predators organization.
The piece gives a good sense of Freeman's long-term commitment to making the NHL work in Nashville, through an emphasis on organically growing a hockey fan base:
Honestly, I don't think we can woo too many adult fans away from their childhood favourites. I'm an exception — but that doesn't count. Our focus is on the kids. We must grow our own fan base from a young age. Hockey is an easy game for kids in Nashville to love because our arena is an "entertainment overload." It will take another decade, but the Habs have been around for 10 decades and we just finished our first. For example, we might convert one out of [every] 20 additional middle-aged football fans, and at great cost, but we think we can get one out of two kids if we can get in front of them directly at an impressionable age.
Along with that mindset is an openness which is unusual in North American professional sports. Paul Nicholson put it well in Mirtle's article:
"[Freeman]'s careful about what he says, which is why I almost feel like I can trust what he does say more than guys that talk and talk — especially the ones that tell you what you want to hear.
"He's also grown a lot as a speaker and as a face of the franchise. At first he just flat out said 'I don't know hockey and have barely been to games — but this team needs to stay here.' Now he could talk hockey with fans and sounds great on local radio interviews, etc."
Whether it's a case of Freeman walking through Section 303 to shake hands with the crazies, or the team's engagement with new media outlets such as this, they've taken a creative, entrepreneurial approach towards building the franchise.
While they haven't "made it" yet by any stretch, they've certainly got a lot of folks pulling for them.