Predators see opportunity in Atlanta

Thrashers' pending move opens door for ticket sales, TV deal

With the move of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg all but official, the Nashville Predators are looking to sieze an opportunity.

"If they move to Winnipeg, they'll leave a fairly passionate fan base that is a short drive from us," Predators president and COO Sean Henry said.

The Preds' sales team is already looking to capture that passion. Atlanta hockey fans have reported being contacted by Nashville's reps and the Predators' vice-president of marketing said the team is mining their database — looking at ticket sales made to Atlanta-area customers, who presumably traveled up I-75 and I-24 for past Thrashers-Predators games — to gauge interest in a package for Atlanta fans.

"I think the void there is starting to develop," Chris Parker said. "We have contact information and we want to try to fill the void the best we can. ... Everything we have is pre-emptive and we are trying to get information as best we can to develop a mini-database."

The NHL Board of Governors still has to approve the relocation of the franchise at its June 21 meeting in New York, but that vote is largely seen as pro forma. Parker says once that vote is taken and the NHL releases the 2011-12 schedule — expected following the league's draft June 24 and 25 — the team will amp up its efforts to sell Atlanta fans on a trip to Nashville.

Parker said the package geared towards Atlantans will be between four and seven games, predominantly on the weekend and spread throughout the season.

"If we can play the former Thrashers, that's a more appealing stand alone option. ... We'd like to work with CVB for a package to make it a weekend. It's four hours and 5 million people. You'd only need to obtain a sliver," he said.

Rumors have also circulated that Fox Sports is looking to broadcast Nashville or Carolina Hurricanes games in the Atlanta market next season. Both Henry and Parker said the talk is premature with the BoG vote still pending, but that it's an opportunity they'd clearly like to take advantage of, given that Atlanta's large metropolitan area provides access to both a large fan base and a sponsor base. Henry noted that Fox is going to have a sports programming hole in a major media market that needs to be filled.

"If the move is approved by the Board of Governors, I assume there's a big void of coverage. You are moving from 82 games to none, from 300 hours of coverage to zero, and I'm assuming there's going to be hockey [on Atlanta television]," he said.

"Hopefully it's the right logo."