NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman thinks hockey can be a viable sport in the South, so it was only fitting that he was visit when the Nashville Predators played the Carolina Hurricanes.
“These are two fine Southern teams playing tonight,” Bettman said in a news conference Tuesday night at the Sommet Center. “Do you expect the fan base in a non-traditional market to be the same as a traditional market? The answer is no.
“But I think there is great fan support in Southern markets. We believe over time it is going to continue to get better. Some of what gets written by the media in other markets about the Southern markets is unfair.”
Bettman has been impressed with the new ownership group, and has been especially pleased with his dealings with David Freeman, who serves as the Governor of the Predators and as the chairman of the ownership group.
“David Freeman and this franchise are conducting business in a first-class way,” Bettman said. “I think we are beginning to see increasing support from the community. I think it is a reflection of the confidence in the local ownership group.”
With any new owner there is a period of learning and adjustment. Freeman made the leap from not being a fan to being an owner in a short amount of time.
“The Predators have a stable organization,” Bettman said. “David Freeman has acclimated himself to the organization that has been in place for the last decade. That is a positive for the team in the long term and near term. He is getting comfortable with the business and the organization.
“He is smart guy. And he has become extremely passionate about the game.”