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Set the Wayback Machine to January...

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In light of the recent news that a local group is mobilizing to form a bid for the Nashville Predators in the event that Jim Balsillie's attempt fails (the letter of intent has a current expiration date of June 30), I was reminded of the scene just a few short months ago, when current owner Craig Leipold made an effort to sell minority ownership in the team to local business interests. When that didn't pan out, Leipold came out in May with the announcement that was selling the whole thing to Balsillie, and was clearly frustrated at not being able to make things work here in Music City.

Is it too late to close the door on that possibility, however? I think not.

Things have changed dramatically over the last few weeks, and I wonder if the stage might be set for just such a transaction now. If the local group is indeed able to muster around $100 million, perhaps a way forward would be to have that group work with Leipold on a shared ownership proposal, that would let Leipold cash in and recover his year-to-year financial losses, while taking advantage of the business support he asked for in January (but is now growing) to help establish long-term support for the team. Exact figures would have to be haggled out by the parties involved, but something like a 49% ownership stake for $100 million (leaving Leipold as the majority owner), or 33% for $60 million could restore Leipold and give the team a stronger foundation to compete from.

This isn't just about dollar signs and season tickets coming to Leipold's rescue, however. There would have to be some agreed-upon changes in the marketing side of things before local investors would make their commitment. When I moved here two years ago I was struck by both the lack of a strong advertising presence, and the difficulty in finding Preds games on TV. The billboards that were around town had a variety of players in what can only be described as passport-photo style poses, with phrases like "I live for speed", or "I live for the save." *YAWN* I'm surprised the Preds didn't get blamed for motorists falling asleep at the wheel looking at those things.

Anyways, the point is that for local owners to step in and help, they'll want some assurances that the off-ice business will change, and their input will be essential for that to succeed. This guy, for example, gets it. There is still opportunity to build a winning and profitable NHL franchise in Nashville, if the right parties can be brought together to make it happen.