The Day the Music Almost Died
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After the news of the new 30 year lease between Nashville and the Predators was announced and watching the video from the weekend’s Smashville celebration, well, I got to thinking… and reminiscing a bit about the summer of 2007. Something I have always referred to as the “Summer from Hell.”
But now, as I sit here in a city that grown by leaps and bounds over the past 12 years. A city that has become a top 30 media market in that time and a city that has become the kind of hockey town that we know it could be… I now know, that if that summer didn’t happen… who knows where this city would be?
12 years ago tomorrow, word broke of the impending sale of the Nashville Predators to Canadian former billionaire, former CEO of Blackberry, Jim Balsillie… and since that time… nothing has been the same in Pred Nation.
I remember being semi-positive about Balsillie being an owner in the NHL (WOW, was wrong about that!)… that he could be a Mark Cuban-like figure, a disruptor in a league desperate for disruption, unfortunately, Balsillie ended up being not entirely what was presented and honestly… if he had kept his mouth shut, and his Hamilton season ticket drive delayed until after the sale was finalized, things would have worked out very differently… but, thank heavens the billionaire’s hubris got in the way and Nashville stepping up to save this franchise..
The city government (after a new mayor was inaugurated) , the new ownership group, the fans, Gary Bettman, groups like Save The Predators... they were critical to gaining a groundswell that culminated in a July rally that showed the budding passion as everyone stepped up.
In 2007 … the number 14000 was all anyone in Pred Nation cared about. After then owner Craig Leipold exercised the “cure clause” in the lease, all anyone cared about was the paid attendance figure. Then the fire sale began… Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell, Paul Kariya, Tomas Vokoun… the core of a really good team… gone. The typical, pre-sale, fire sale that happens almost every time a team is sold. Early July was a tough time in Pred Nation. Then came the announcement of the OneTeam Nashville Rally to happen in mid-July.
In the heat of summer....
with half the town on vacation… a rally gets scheduled.
You had to wonder about the scheduling… but it worked.
Ahh, the rally… an all day radio-thon from 501 Broadway that culminated in a rally in the bowl of the arena. A chanting, screaming, pulsating crowd of over 7500 Pred fans came out to support their team. The governor, the mayor, Pred players, Pred broadcasters, heck… even Eklund came down for it! Almost 1000 season tickets sold that day… and the first glimmers of hope appeared… and that rally may have driven what happened just a few weeks later when a local group of Nashville based businessmen put an offer sheet in on the Predators.
That offer effectively took out Jim Balsillie from the mix and the vulture went flying off to find another team to poach. The new ownership group had to battle to renegotiate a lease with a lame duck administration that seemed to had already checked out. The great news in all of this was that a new administration cleaned up the mess and got the deal done. The soap opera lasted until just before Thanksgiving… but a deal got done.
Then the real work began, both on and off the ice… the right people were hired, the right staff brought in, the right team put together… that 07-08 season had it all… ups and downs, the beginning of a Smashville tradition in the TV Timeout Standing O, a playoff spot and the beginning of the turnaround of this franchise.
The rest as they say... is history.
Seems so far away, but also seems like only yesterday however... now, you can look at this whole situation (firmly in the rear view mirror) as a good thing for this franchise. Without the experience of 2007, I submit... that Nashville would be a very different place.
Join us for SlapShot Radio tonight, 6pm on 102.5 the Game... listen online at thegamenashville.com