One-on-One with Predators Chairman David Freeman

Friday, 03.07.2008 / 4:30 AM / Features
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One-on-One with Predators Chairman David Freeman
With today marking the three-month anniversary of Predators Holding's purchase of the team, NashvillePredators.com grabbed some time with David Freeman, the team's new Chairman, to discuss his first three months on the job, the state of the team, and the plans for next season.

NashvillePredators.com: Today is the three-month anniversary of the press conference announcing your purchase of
Related Items
» Predators Holdings LLC purchases Nashville Predators, Powers Management (Dec. 7)

» One-on-One with David Poile (Feb. 1)
» One-on-One with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (Feb. 6)
» One-on-One with Dan Hamhuis web chat (Feb. 21)
the team. Can you assess your first three months?
David Freeman: Busy. I think more than anything, just very busy. We obviously have a lot of work to do. The good news is there's a lot of high quality people in the organization doing that work. We think we're making some really good progress and I think it's showing up in terms of the attendance up tick that we've seen. The attendance levels have been up dramatically the last couple of weeks. We're seeing it in the new sponsorship deals we've been announcing. It's been busy, but it's been very productive. Obviously the team's performance has contributed greatly to our ability to get people to listen to our message.

NP.com: How is attendance tracking this season?
DF: Since we bought the team I think it's been tracking very well. We've had, what, three or four sellouts since we bought the team on December 7 and we've come real close on two other occasions. There's no question the building will be sold out for the Red Wings game (March 20). There's no question it will be sold out for our remaining Saturday game (March 22 vs. Chicago). If the team continues to be in the playoff picture, I expect the possibility we could come close on all seven of the remaining regular season games.

The city of Nashville seems to have responded to this hockey team extremely well. There seems to be a connection to the team that maybe didn't exist in the past. Certainly a lot of that credit goes to the guys (in the locker room). They've busted their butts this year and here they are right on the cusp of a playoff berth. I think the city has responded to these guys and the effort they've put forth, just as much as is has to the fact that there's a new ownership group that lives here and cares a great deal about the city.

NP.com: Can you assess Nashville as a "hockey market?"
DF: I don't know that I'm in a position to answer that question. Time will tell. But I think that there's obviously a much greater awareness of the team and what the team means to the city. Even for those who might not have been hockey fans in the past – and maybe they're still not – but I think there's a huge awareness of the team and what it means to the city. Sometimes you don't know what you've got until you almost lost it. I think that definitely applies in this situation.

NP.com: From a business aspect, how is the team doing?
DF: We're right on our projections, so we're pleased with where we are from a business standpoint. We think we're well on our way to our stated goal of making this a stable, viable business enterprise. We're not in it to make a profit, but we do need to make sure that it's a good stable business. And we're well on pace for that.

NP.com: How important has it been to bring some former sponsors back into the fold?
DF: We appreciate every one of them. All of our sponsors are important. And we have a lot more room for more. But we really appreciate the new sponsorship dollars. They're greatly needed. And I think it's just as important – perhaps more important – to continue to say thank you to our long-time sponsors that have been with this franchise for years, many since Day 1.

NP.com: You have two young children. How have they reacted to dad as an owner of a professional sports team?
DF: Honestly we don't talk about it. It's just not something that I have ever talked to them about. Now their friends … umm. I think they get most of their information from their classmates. But they have really enjoyed coming to the games and have become big fans very quickly, just like I have. Miller, one of my sons, plays hockey down in the playroom and unfortunately I'm his goalie. So, the only good news is at least he's using a tennis ball rather than a hockey puck to shoot at me.

NP.com: How involved were you at the Trade Deadline?
DF: I sat and I observed and continued to tell David Poile that he was the man. I observed and really that was it.

NP.com: How was your first experience with the NHL Trade Deadline?
DF: You know it's certainly a little thrilling after growing up for decades watching the NFL Draft and the "war rooms" on draft day. Trade Deadline Day in the NHL is probably very similar to that; the amount of activity going on. There were a lot of teams calling us, asking for some of our younger player and we just like them too much to give them up.

NP.com: What was it like to be in the war room during Deadline Day?
DF: I think it left me with an even greater level of confidence. I walked into a room of career hockey professionals; together in one room debating the merits of every potential move you could think of. Just seeing the talent and the experience and the expertise in the room with all our hockey ops guys and all our scouts. It certainly made me feel good the right people were having the discussions and making the decisions.

NP.com: Recently NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman visited Nashville. How important was that for the organization? What was it like for you to spend the day with the Commissioner?
DF: Well, Commissioner and I have spent a lot of time together over the past year, so we've got quite a relationship now. It was good for him to come to Nashville and be able to see the enthusiasm in our core fans. I think he was a little stunned – and has even mentioned it in conversations since he left Nashville – about the number of people who showed up for the Town Hall Meeting. I think the Nashville hockey community gets "it." In the sense that he got two standing ovations when he was here. And he'll be the first to tell you that's not his standard greeting. What I think that says is that the Nashville hockey community understands just how much he has gone out on a limb in terms of believing in us as a city. And we really appreciate the support that he's given us and his belief in Nashville. So it was very gratifying to see the reception he got here in town. It was well deserved. And much appreciated by him. And so was (Nashville Tennessean columnist) David Climer's column the following day, where I think he recognized what Gary has done for Nashville.

NP.com: Have you starting planning the budget for next season?
DF: Sure. Yes. Strategically it's probably not good for us to talk about that publicly for competitive reasons. Our budget will be significantly higher than it was this year. In fact, I'm quite certain we will spend more on payroll next year than at any time in the history of the club. We're that committed to building this team right back up.

NP.com: Can you comment on the three players you've already re-signed?
DF: Very happy. I think J.P. Dumont's having a career year and not just in terms of goals, but his line with Arnott and Radulov; they're playing spectacular. I'm not sure there's a line in hockey more productive than they are right now. I'm not sure you can over state the importance of what that line has done for this team. If you remember back at the beginning of the season everybody was talking about, "there's no scoring on this team." As it stands we have the third highest scoring team in the Western Conference this year. J.P. and that line have been instrumental in that.

We're thrilled to be able to hang on to David Legwand. He's our organization's first draft pick. And Jordin Tootoo; it's great that Tootoo is incredibly popular. It's great that he brings so much energy to the game. The whole building just kind of lights up when he's out on the ice. But this year's been a breakout year for Jordin, too, because he's scoring. He's not there just to agitate or just to fight. He's there to play hockey this year. And he's proven that he's a threat. It's certainly wonderful that everybody loves him and that he's there for his teammates. When we go back to what I said about the team being the third highest scoring team in the Western Conference, it's because there's guys like Tootoo and Nichol that have stepped up and are scoring this year, more than in year's past.

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