July 24, 2012 3 Comments
Nashville is music city, not hockey city.
That’s why the Nashville Predators matched the 14 year $110 million offer sheet for Shea Weber.
After another highly successful campaign in 2011-12, the Predators lost Ryan Suter to the Minnesota Wild in free agency. Suter was one-half of what was possibly the NHL’s best defensive tandem. Nashville couldn’t afford to lose the other half.
Since coming into the league in 1997, the Nashville Predators have predictably struggled to build a solid fan base. A lack of star players, good results and knowledge of hockey have all been factors that have hurt the struggling franchise.
The results have been changing though. The Predators have made the postseason in 3 straight seasons. Accordingly, their fan base has been increasing.
People in city of Nashville actually know hometown professional athletes other than the ones who play for the Tennessee Titans. Shea Weber is one of those guys. His missile of a shot and intimidating physical presence isn’t completely unnoticed anymore. However, lose Shea Weber and the Nashville Predators would have been left with not much more than Barry Trotz’s odd shaped head.
Profit is still eluding the franchise but attendance, TV ratings and corporate sponsorships are all rising for the Predators. In the regular season finale, they sold out their 25th consecutive game, a franchise best and counting. TV ratings for local broadcasts grew from a 0.4 rating in 2010-11 to a 1.0 rating in 2011-12. Also, private sponsorships at the arena have increased by 25% since CEO Jeff Cogen was hired in 2010.
Impressive…for hockey in the south.
Considering the Nashville Predators have finally started to build their franchise into a viable business, it would have been very difficult to convince their new and growing fan base to believe in the team if they let Shea Weber go. For a team that features one of the most boring teams in hockey, they couldn’t chicken out on Shea Weber for financial reasons alone.
From a hockey stand point, Shea Weber’s contract is questionable at best. But from the Predators stand point, he is a necessity. Weber is the face of that franchise. Other than Pekka Rinne, the Predators lineup is devoid of anything close to a star player unless you count Mr. Carrie Underwood. Nashville might have been able to compete for a playoff spot without Weber but this move is not mainly about competing.
The Nashville Predators don’t want to be the Florida Marlins of old who saw the likes Josh Beckett and A.J. Burnett leave because they became too expensive to keep. They can’t be seen like that to their fan base if they want to keep on growing as a franchise. Not after all they have been through in the past 15 years.
Yes, it has taken 15 long years for the Nashville Predators to get to this position. Cutting ties with Shea Weber would have been like heading back to 2007, when Jim Balsillie was trying to relocate the team to Southern Ontario. As good as Pekka Rinne is, it would have been a big blow for Nashville fans to see Weber in another uniform.
Nashville’s fans are some of the rowdiest in the league regardless of their uninspiring roster. But even they need something to get geared up about because David Legwand, Martin Erat, Sergei Kostitsyn and Patric Hornqvist don’t exactly get the juices flowing.
With the return of Shea Weber, Nashville fans can now look forward to another promising season.
Should they have expected anything less?
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