Did you know…
…that the Predators and Admirals have the third longest active affiliation streak in the AHL?
The Admirals are the only AAA affiliate the Predators have ever known, going back to their inaugural season in 1998. This puts them only behind the Hartford Wolfpack/Connecticut Whale – New York Rangers relationship (since 1997), and the Providence Bruins – Boston Bruins relationship (since 1992).
Obviously, there are lots of great things about a long relationship like that. Milwaukee has a lot to offer the Preds, or any NHL affiliate.
“We have built a very strong and successful relationship with Nashville that has been mutually beneficial,” Admirals Team President Jon Greenberg says. “Our ownership group and front office staff have worked hard to make this a destination for potential players with not only a first-class facility in the Bradley Center but also a Major League city to live and work.”
But how does the Milwaukee – Nashville relationship differ from those other two long-standing duos?
It takes a little less than 2 and a half hours to drive from Hartford to NYC.
It takes an hour to drive from Providence to Boston.
It’s about a 9 and a half hour drive from Milwaukee to Nashville. It’s a two hour direct flight if you can get it.
From a roster management standpoint, there are obvious benefits to proximity: time and money.
The reason I bring all of this up, as reader BrianTheAdsFan had previously pointed out, there are rumors out there that the Predators want to move their affiliates closer to home.
The Predators had their annual Skate Of The Union address recently. It’s a nice public relations thing the team does every summer where fans can get some face-time with management and coaches. They talk about all parts of the franchise…business, player development, drafting, the ownership group, and there’s a Q&A session at the end. It gives Nashville fans a reason to be excited about hockey in July.
Here’s where the story deviates a bit from on-the-record-fact to off-the-record-conversations-that-would-probably-would-not-hold-up-in court.
In the comments section of a post on ontheforecheck.com , a commenter shared this:
“I was able to catch Jeff Cogen last night. Can’t let the Pred out of the bag….but expect to see our farm teams within a 3 hour driving distance in the near future. He mentioned 2 cities on the radar with hockey ready arenas that they are going for to get a more regional fan base. Hint…..One metro area just lost their team……”
Jeff Cogen is the Chief Executive Officer and alternate Governor of the Predators. The commenter? Hell if I know. And thus we get to an unfortunate byproduct of the rise of blogs…..there’s a ton of information going back and forth on the superhighway, but it’s not always easy to verify it.
A Nashville – Atlanta relationship. It’s tough to fault them if they are looking in to it. Arena? Check. Heartbroken hockey fans looking for a new team to follow? Check. Just a four hour drive between the two cities? Check. Branding opportunities in the region? Major check. The Predators are already trying to market Preds hockey to the old Thrashers fan base. And an affiliation agreement would certainly help that.
The thought of it feels kind of like a punch in the gut to Milwaukee fans.
Still, I can’t help but think that there are a lot more things that would need to happen in advance of this coming anywhere close to fruition. For one thing, all 30 of the AHL teams are already owned, either by the parent club or locally. For the Preds to be able to pick and choose an affiliate city in this fashion, they would likely need to purchase an existing AHL franchise, and then relocate that franchise. True North owned the Manitoba Moose, and with their good fortune in landing the NHL team, they elected to move the Moose out east. Good for them.
For an organization that some may describe as “frugal”, is this possible for Nashville? Sure, it’s possible. Is it likely? I’m less confident that it’s likely.
The Admirals and Predators have one more year left on their current affiliation deal, so change isn’t exactly imminent. But I don’t think there’s anything to panic about at the moment. I think a lot more dominos will need to fall before there’s something to be worried about, and those dominos will be louder than some off-the-cuff comment from a Predators executive to an anonymous reader/commenter on a blog.
“The road to Nashville has gone through Milwaukee since 1998 and we expect that to continue for years to come with hopefully an affiliation extension right around the corner,” Greeny says.
Affiliation changes are not exactly uncommon in this league, and I think our long-standing affiliation bliss with the Predators should be viewed as the exception, and not the norm. But I find Greeny’s comments very encouraging, and I hope we’ll be writing about an affiliation extension sometime this season.