News Blog: Put up and shut up

Ryan Kennedy
By: Ryan Kennedy
Oct 5, 2007
The Hockey News
News Blog: Put up and shut up

Ryan Kennedy
By: Ryan Kennedy
Oct 5, 2007

Is it fair to compare the financial success of a hockey team to say, a paper mill or an insurance company?

In the latter cases, if the businesses make money, they're good. If they don't make money, they shut down.

Team stability in the NHL has been a constant in the news for years now, with Pittsburgh and Nashville being the recent leaders in black ink covering red ink.

And despite growing revenues in the league, many owners are once again crying poverty.

Nashville's sell-sell-sell owner Craig Leipold has claimed losses of $27 million over the past two seasons, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but it got me thinking: If you're the owner of a major professional sports club, you're most likely a multi-millionaire, possibly a billionaire. So while $27 million is a lot of money to the average person, you're not the average person.

Craig Leipold hasn't sold his car. He isn't clipping coupons and he hasn't moved into his parents' basement. In fact, when he eventually does sell the Preds, he'll make a gargantuan profit.

The Nashville Predators were allowed into the NHL for a franchise fee of $80 million, but the City of Nashville paid $25 million of that. The city also paid for the team's scoreboard, a digital control room and any financial losses the arena might incur during “arena operations.”

Since the inception of the Preds one decade ago, Leipold has claimed $70 million in losses. When BlackBerry guru Jim Balsillie made his power move for the team, he offered a bid of $230 million, which instantly would have wiped out any debts Leipold had sunk into the team.

But there's a larger issue at stake here: Pro sports teams are not intrinsically money-making ventures.

They are symbols of community pride in the most altruistic corners and playthings for the stupidly rich in the most cynical.

If Leipold keeps the Preds in Nashville, he will be a hero, just as he was for bringing a team there in the first place.

And good on him.

I like that there's an NHL team in Nashville. I like that the team logo is based on the fact they found the fang and leg bone of a prehistoric saber-tooth tiger in a cave buried underneath the city's downtown core. I like the defiance of putting the name “Nashville” on the new white jerseys, just so y'all know it's not the Hamilton Predators or the Las Vegas Predators and it won't be anytime soon.

That's called civic pride. And as murky as it's getting in Tennessee, Craig Leipold has the opportunity to maintain some of his by not complaining about a little red ink.

EARLY FLIGHT Good to see Philly win its first game of the season, with Daniel Briere potting the first goal against Calgary.

With the NFL Eagles flailing and the Phillies down 2-0 in their playoff match-up, the collective psyche of the Greater Philadelphia Area is undoubtedly frail right now.

Philadelphia is bar-none the best sports city in North America, possibly the world. I've been berated on South Street for wearing an Oakland Raiders hat and yelled at from a car on Locust for rocking a throwback Baltimore Orioles cap, but I took it in stride – it's all about the home team in Philly.

With the Flyers back in the mix this year, the faithful will have something to cheer about this winter (because it won't be the Sixers).

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News Blog: Put up and shut up