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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Waivers and Sales

Funny business, hockey. The Los Angeles Kings have had problems all season with goalies. The revolving door that is the pipes in LA doesn’t include one name, however: Manchester Monarch Jason LaBarbera. LaBarbera is better than the other netminders it has called up, Dan Cloutier, Barry Brust and Yutaka Fukufuji. However, LaBarbera is subject to waiver if he is called up. And, LA expects he’d be grabbed by another team.

The same waiver rules designed to protect athletes from being warehoused in the minors between stints in the majors have found a way to punish LaBarbera this season.

More funny business, Nashville is on the market, or maybe in the market… to move. The Predators, who affiliate with the Milwaukee Admirals, have had one the best seasons ever, yet corporate ticket sales have floundered, leading the Wisconsin-based owner, Craig Leipold, to announce he plans to sell 40 percent of the team to a local investor. Provided he can find one.

Leipold’s move was due to the team attracting common Joe, not corporate sponsors and corporate ticket buyers. It averages 14,700 in attendance, with about 1,500 tickets given away each game, according to a story in the Tennessean.

That places it 23rd in the NHL in attendance and the lowest in ticket price, according to the Predators. The team’s revenue sharing agreement is effected by attendance and revenue, to low and the team takes a smaller cut of league television sales and advertising revenues

Corporate ticket sales have fallen from 8,600 in the inaugural season, eight years ago, to about 2,600 this season. Local businesses cite their unfamiliarity with the sport and support for local Vanderbilt University. Similar in market composition to the Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes, the ‘Canes organization noted that individual and family tickets were becoming increasingly important to it.

The news excited hockey fans in Kansas City. They immediately added Nashville to the teams they are wooing to come to the new Sprint Center. Add to that list, the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights. Why not? Although owners of the team, it is a partnership between the Calgary Flames and a local charity, the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben, deny the team is moving in the next year, the team continues to have among the lowest attendance in the league.

So far, this year, attendance has averaged 3,151 fans, compared to 3,271 in 2005-6, their inaugural season. That ranks 26 of the 27 AHL teams.

Landing an AHL team and showing success with it may prove KC is ready for a NHL team. The market has already failed with the International Hockey League’s Blades and the NHL’s Scouts.

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