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Coming soon to a city near you... NHL Hockey!

The fate of the Nashville Predators might well be impacted by two new developments which have been reported today.

First, Canada's Competition Bureau is looking into the legality of the NHL's franchise relocation policy, which sets up the 50-mile zone-of-control around current teams, and presents a huge cost barrier to Jim Balsillie's presumed desire to move the Predators to Hamilton, which would require a costly payout to the Toronto Maple Leafs for taking up residence in their backyward (the fee for the Ducks to do the same to the L.A. Kings was $50 million a decade ago, so you can imagine what 10 years and the world's hottest hockey market would do to that figure).

Secondly, the word "expansion" is spreading like wildfire, with the current speculation being that Las Vegas and Kansas City might be added to the NHL as expansion cities very soon, with Jerry Bruckheimer called the front-runner for ownership in Sin City. All I know is, they should have one whale of a time naming that team. The Las Vegas Craps? The Nevada Blackjacks? Beats the heck outta me...

So what does this mean for the Preds chances of remaining in Nashville? The bottom line for the next year or so remains hitting the 14,000 average paid attendance figure, which would close the loophole for voiding the current lease at the Sommet Center. The investigation into NHL relocation policy seems to be about giving Balsillie options, which any prudent businessman wants to have. Opening up Hamilton as a possible relocation site brings another bidder to the auction when Balsillie lays out a long-term plan for the team. As regards expansion, I'd be surprised to see the NHL give up on Nashville at a time when they're looking to move into an oasis in the desert like Vegas, or an already-crowded sports town that has lost NHL hockey once already in Kansas City.

For all the ridicule the NHL is getting over abysmal nation-wide TV ratings, the bread-and-butter part of the business, gate receipts, seems to be doing quite well. Attendance has been strong, the salary cap appears primed to jump by as much as 5% next year based on increased league revenue, and the San Jose Sharks (among others including Nashville) are raising ticket prices for next year. The new CBA appears to be working well for the players and owners alike. That's bringing plenty of interested groups to the party, hoping to get in on a piece of the action.

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