On most summer Sundays, Jason Arnott makes the trek from his Muskoka residence to his home town of Wasaga Beach for a game of pickup hockey with his childhood chums.
But on one particular weekend this past off-season, Arnott was caught off-guard at the questions his friends started peppering him with.
"All my buddies started asking me if they should start buying tickets for Hamilton," Arnott recalled yesterday with a chuckle.
Arnott, like many NHLers, likes to escape the hustle and bustle of the NHL world during the summer. As a result, he was unaware that Nashville Predators wannabe owner, Blackberry honcho Jim Balsillie, had put season tickets on sale in Hamilton at the time.
Such is the life of a Nashville Predator, for whom life has been anything but boring in recent times.
Fortunately for Arnott and his teammates, things appear to have settled down after the NHL board of governors last week approved the sale of the team to a group of local Nashville investors headed by businessman David Freeman.
"No one wanted to move," said Arnott, whose Predators make a rare visit to the Air Canada Centre to take on the Maple Leafs tonight. "We love playing there.
"It's not the biggest city but it's a great place to play. The fans are great and have been behind us. We might not have the most corporate backing but hopefully that picks up."
Head coach Barry Trotz, the team's only coach in franchise history, said his team has done an excellent job maintaining its focus while speculation over the team's future was running rampant.
DISTRACTION FOR SPOUSES
"It was probably more of a distraction through summer and training camp," Trotz said. "Maybe it was still a distraction for the spouses, who needed to know things about places to live and where the kids would be going to school. I'm not sure distraction is the right word. Maybe annoyance is a better term.
"I know there was a lot of push for (relocation to) Hamilton and Winnipeg. I'm from Winnipeg. People have to remember we are a non-traditional market that is developing.
"I remember when the league first went to places like Vancouver. It was empty at first before the product was established."