It is the summer of 2007, and talks of the Nashville Predators being moved to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada was starting to heat up. Perspective new owner of the Predators and CEO of Blackberry, Jim Balsillie was going to move the team to Hamilton. However, Balsillie’s arrogance got him in trouble.
Even before the final decision was made on whether or not the Predators were going to be sold to Balsillie, he was creating a website for his “new team” and already selling season tickets. During that time, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was paying no attention to that “ass-bag” in Ontario. Bettman wasn’t looking for owners to move the team away, he was looking to keep the team in Nashville, TN.
Because of Balsillie’s arrogance, the NHL didn’t want him to own a team. His credibility of being a legitimate owner flew out the window. If only Balsillie would have been more suttle, there would be NHL hockey in Hamilton today.
On Thursday, July 19, the Nashville Predators held a unofficial save the team party at the Sommet Center, which is now know as Bridgestone Arena. Over 7,000 die-hard Preds fans attended this rally, including your’s truly, to support the Nashville Predators. Even Eklund of HockeyBuzz attended and supported the Preds and even promoted SavethePredators.com on his blog.
At that rally, the near 8,000 fans who attended were all either wearing their Predators paraphernalia or their Save the Predators shirts. Many also held signs that said, “Nashville Loves the Predators”. The love for hockey in Nashville was flowing and the energy was intoxicating.
Gary Bettman saw this and loved what occurred. He continued to push harder to find another owner, or group, to keep the Predators in Nashville. Without Bettman’s love of having hockey in a non-traditional market and trying to succeed, there wouldn’t be a team here.
Of course several days later, the Predators were able to find an ownership group that was, and still is, steady.
Even with the silliness between the NHL and the NHLPA in negotiating a new CBA, not one person should hate Bettman after this in Nashville. It may be his fault for the possible lockout that could occur, but it doesn’t matter because he kept the Predators in Nashville.
So, instead of bashing Gary Bettman, the people of Nashville should look back on what he did for us.