<
>

Owners signal that hockey in Nashville moving forward

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.