Looks like Jim Balsillie is buying the Preds. So we can look forward to a full season of rumors about the team moving killing whatever fan and corporate interest exists in Tennessee.
I used to live in K-W. It’s a fine place to live, and I would move back there if the opportunity arose. But is it a city that can sustain a healthy NHL franchise? I don’t believe it is. It would be the smallest market in the league*, would have to break into a market where the Leafs already have captured most of the potential fan base, not to mention they would have to figure out how to wrest some decent regional TV coverage away from the Leafs, who probably aren’t inclined to play nice. Oh yeah, and they don’t have a suitable arena, and would need to come up with several hundred million to build one.
The only way I see a K-W team succeeding in the NHL is if Balsillie is prepared to just be a sugar daddy and pour cash into the team to keep it running. Maybe he is, but those sorts of owners seem to run out of patience after awhile (see Laurie, Bill) and cut their losses. So I remain very skeptical about the NHL in K-W.
And what’s worse, if the Preds do move, we in Columbus lose a relatively close and incredibly fun road trip. K-W meets the relatively close criterion, but incredibly fun? Yeesh. Great place to live, wouldn’t want to visit there (well, I might, but that would mainly be to visit friends and eat at Pho Ben Thanh — wait, so if the Preddies move, I get mango shakes and pad thai? Hmmm…).
* Yeah, I know it’s near the GTA, but I really believe that any model predicated on lots of fans and corporate support from Toronto is bound to fail. For one thing, Toronto already has an NHL team. Yes, Leaf tickets are hard to come by, but I doubt most Leaf fans are going to give up a lifetime of supporting that team in order to get tickets more easily in K-W. And also, I’ve sat in rush hour traffic heading west out of Toronto enough times to know just how reluctant people are going to be to do that 41+ times a year in order to be season-ticket holders for the Waterloo Preds. If they expected any significant chunk of their crowd to come from Toronto regularly, they’re going to need to set opening faceoff for 9PM.
ETA: Yeah, I know Balsillie may also be looking at Hamilton, which is slightly larger and already has a decent-sized arena, and is probably on its face more viable of a market than K-W (although it would still be one of the smaller ones), but I’m assuming that Toronto and/or Buffalo would continue to veto Hamilton, which falls within both teams’ turf (unless the NHL has changed the rules since the last go-round with Hamilton)