Owners signal that hockey in Nashville moving forward

Updated: December 11, 2007, 7:54 PM ET
Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The new owners of the Nashville Predators wasted little time showing who's in charge, promoting current general manager David Poile to president of hockey operations on Tuesday.

Lead owner David Freeman, who took over operation of the team and management of the team's arena on Friday, the same day the team's $193 million purchase of the team was finalized, also moved Ed Lang to president of business operations.

Freeman said the new owners wanted to send the message the Predators are ready to go.

Poile said the moves signals the start of a new day, after six months of uncertainty and limbo because of original owner Craig Leipold's decision to sell the franchise.

"The goal is clear. We have to make Nashville a hockey city. We have got to go forward and stabilize this franchise," Poile said.

"We have got to get rid of all the naysayers that have existed in the last few years and for sure the last six months to a year who say this franchise is not going to be successful in Nashville, that this franchise is just going to be here temporarily, is going to move. We've got to get rid of that."

Poile acknowledged that he had been forced into player moves over the last few months that were not in the team's best interest in the long term.

He traded away captain and defenseman Kimmo Timonen and forward Scott Hartnell to Philadelphia, couldn't re-sign top scorer Paul Kariya and traded away goaltender Tomas Vokoun. But the new owners and Leipold helped him sign forward David Legwand to a six-year deal last week.

Poile, the team's only general manager since the franchise started in 1997, said they still must figure out what the team's revenues will look like this season, allowing him to devise a budget for players.

He has said he intends to keep young players like defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter and forwards Martin Erat and Jordin Tootoo from becoming free agents.

"I'm here to accept the challenge to make Nashville a hockey city to always give us a competitive team on the ice and to eventually win the Stanley Cup," Poile said.

The new owners also moved Lang up. He had been with the franchise since the beginning, moving to Nashville from Wisconsin with Leipold. He began as vice president and chief financial officer and was named executive vice president of finance and chief financial officer in 2005.

Lang intends to focus on improving ticket sales, but isn't shooting to average a particular number in attendance. The team's old lease would have let the Predators leave Nashville next summer if they did not average 14,000 in paid attendance this season.

He said he believes the local ties of most of the new owners will help him better tap into Nashville's business community in a way that Leipold, who lived in Wisconsin, could not.

"The glass is half full, and we're going to fill that glass up until it's full every game," he said.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press