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Volume 25 No. 154

Franchises

Since Yzerman took over in '10, the Lightning have made three trips to the Eastern Conference final
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Steve Yzerman is "stepping down after eight seasons" as Lightning GM, though he "will stay in the organization" for the coming season as an advisor to his replacement in former Assistant GM Julien BriseBois, according to Tom Jones of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. Yzerman "would not commit to anything beyond this season when asked about his decision." He said that he "came to the decision in late July not to sign another contract as GM and that it took until now to iron out details on what to do next." He added that the move will "allow him to spend more time with his family." Since Yzerman took over the team in '10, the Lightning have made "three trips to the Eastern Conference final and one trip to the Stanley Cup final" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 9/12). In Toronto, Dave Feschuk notes Yzerman yesterday was "noncommittal when he was asked about his long-term plans." But the timing of his resignation is "curious," given that he had "decided he wanted to step down in late July" (TORONTO STAR, 9/12).

DIDN'T SEE THIS COMING: USA TODAY's Kevin Allen writes this is a "significant blow for the Lightning." Working with Owner Jeff Vinik, Yzerman has "transformed the Lightning into one of the league’s model franchises." The Lightning have a "committed fan base, and a major reason is the confidence fans have in Yzerman’s decision-making and leadership." Yzerman has "given the organization prestige, an elite image that had been lacking before he arrived" (USA TODAY, 9/12). The TAMPA BAY TIMES' Jones in a front-page piece writes yesterday "could go down as one of the darkest days in Tampa Bay sports history." The news "rocked the hockey world," as Yzerman's tenure with the team "has been sensational." He "gave the Lightning credibility and class." Jones: "You could make a case that he is the best GM in the game" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 9/12).

NEXT MAN UP: In Tampa, Martin Fennelly writes despite all the "seismic news" from the Lightning, there was also a "seamlessness" to the announcement. It spoke to Vinik's "confidence that one of the best-run franchises in sports will keep humming with 41-year-old BriseBois running things." BriseBois has been "in demand as a GM over the years" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 9/12). The HOCKEY NEWS' Jared Clinton also noted Brisebois has "long been considered one of the frontrunners for vacant team-building gigs throughout the NHL," and it "would be foolish to assume that [he] is incapable of replacing Yzerman" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 9/11). SPORTSNET.ca's Chris Johnston wrote Yzerman "can feel good about how he’s left the house in order." The Lightning are "built to contend well beyond this season and have one of the more progressive thinkers in the game now at the helm in BriseBois" (SPORTSNET.ca, 9/11).

The Redskins open their home season Sunday against the Colts, and "thousands of tickets remain unsold at FedExField," which raises the "previously unthinkable question" of whether the game will sell out, according to Liz Clarke of the WASHINGTON POST. FedExField has been "scaled back at least three times in recent years, from 91,704 to 82,000 seats." Data from NFL Ticket Exchange showed more than 3,650 tickets were still available yesterday in "all sections of the stadium, across all price points," for Sunday's game. The Redskins have "long maintained that every game is sold out and boasted in this year's media guide that the run of sellouts dates back 50 years." The attendance streak has been a "source of enormous pride for the franchise." However, fan enthusiasm has "diminished in recent years," which the team acknowledged in June when it announced that a season ticket waiting list the team once said numbered 200,000 "no longer existed." The availability of tickets for Sunday's game is "another sign of flagging fan interest." Sellouts or not, in recent years "thousands of seats are often unfilled at many home games." Meanwhile, the team website "continues to advertise both single-game and season tickets." The Redskins are also "posting ads on social media that have placed special emphasis on Sunday's home opener" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/12).

Nashville MLS hopes to use Nissan Stadium as a temporary venue for its inaugural '20 season
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Nashville MLS CEO Ian Ayre said that the expansion franchise's name is "still undecided," and confirmed that the team hopes to use Nissan Stadium as a "temporary venue" for its inaugural '20 season while a new stadium is under construction at the fairgrounds, according to Joey Garrison of the Nashville TENNESSEAN. Ayre said, "We're trying to be uniquely Nashville, be ourselves and build something that is right for the city and this league." He added that the "next priority is to hire a general manager within the next four to six weeks." The club has already "interviewed candidates." Many have speculated that the Nashville SC name -- used by Nashville's USL club -- would be "adopted by the MLS club, but that's not a sure thing." Ayre said that the club "intends to discuss that question with its core supporters" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 9/12). In Nashville, Eleanor Kennedy noted Ayre by the end of the year "hopes to have rounded out the top level of the staff, putting the organization in a good spot to hit the ground running" in '19. Ayre also "expects to roll out the team's identity" some time in Q1 of '19. Part of the "reason for the delay: He doesn't want to create confusion in the market while Nashville SC completes season-ticket renewals and gets ready" for its next USL season (BIZJOURNALS.com, 9/11).

TIME TO GET TO WORK: Nashville-based Gobbell Hays Partners architect Ron Gobbell, the lead manager of the fairgrounds construction project, said that plan is to "begin preliminary site work on the fairgrounds' new expo center by mid-October, assuming the necessary permits are obtained including a grading permit." He added that design work will "enter a more advanced phase following the council's approval." The TENNESSEAN's Garrison notes the goal is for the "first event inside the new facility to take place next summer." Gobbell said that he is "working with design and construction crews before settling on an opening date" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 9/12). Garrison noted by moving forward with the fairground construction, MLS "averted what would have been a second stadium hold-up as Miami now looks to a public referendum in November to decide a stadium proposal there needed for an MLS expansion to South Beach." MLS Commissioner Don Garber said that it would have been "'really devastating' for everyone who had worked to bring MLS to Nashville -- but he stopped short of detailing the ramifications." He added that the Nashville MLS ownership group led by John Ingram "realized MLS needed to have a 'plan B' if the stadium was voted down." Garber: "Thankfully, we never had to pull that 'plan B' out of the drawer. There's a variety of different things that could have happened" (TENNESSEAN.com, 9/12).

Molson said the team will try to give fans confidence to fill seats at Bell Centre
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Canadiens Owner Geoff Molson said season-ticket sales “are fine” after the team finished last season with the fourth-lowest point total in the NHL, but acknowledged it needs to “start winning” to maintain fan support, according to Stu Cowan of the MONTREAL GAZETTE. He said following a “tough season there are some [fans] that are less interested” in renewing their tickets, but that means other fans “have an opportunity to get in.” Molson noted the ticket market is “different” than in the recent past. Molson: “Five years ago before the re-sale market opened up pretty much everybody had to make sure they got their tickets by September. And now with all the re-sale markets out there people can wait and they can buy their tickets at the last minute if they need to.” Cowan noted there was a lot of talk about “empty seats last season at the Bell Centre.” Molson said, “The best thing that we can do as an organization is to give our fans confidence that we’re going to win and we’re going to perform.” The team on Monday traded captain LW Max Pacioretty to the Golden Knights, the latest move in rebuilding the roster, but Molson downplayed that fan unrest would result from the move. He said, “We have the most knowledgeable, best fans in the world and I think they understand what we’re trying to do here” (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 9/11).

The Tigers are in the midst of a 59-86 season and their lowest attendance in years, but Tigers Chair & CEO Chris Ilitch stressed that the team "would remain in family hands for the foreseeable future," according to Lynn Henning of the DETROIT NEWS. Ilitch said, "I am committed, and we are committed, to long-term ownership." Ilitch said that he was "'very pleased' with the job" Tigers Exec VP/Baseball Operations & GM Al Avila and the front office were "doing in rebuilding a Tigers team that is in a ground-up bid to return playoff baseball to Detroit." The Tigers this season will "not reach 2 million in Comerica Park attendance" for the first time in 14 years. Ilitch: "We knew when we went through a rebuild, TV ratings and attendance would be impacted" (DETROIT NEWS, 9/12). Ilitch yesterday also said that he "didn't want to put a timeline on when the Tigers would emerge from their rebuilding process" (MLIVE.com, 9/11).

TIGERS ATTENDANCE TREND
SEASON
TOTAL
AVG.
RECORD
'18
1,684,936
23,402
59-86
'17
2,321,599
28,662
64-98
'16
2,493,859
31,173
86-75
'15
2,726,048
33,655
74-87
'14
2,917,209
36,015
90-72
'13
3,083,397
38,067
93-69
'12
3,028,033
37,383
88-74
'11
2,642,045
32,618
95-67
'10
2,461,237
30,386
81-81
'09
2,567,186
31,694
86-77
'08
3,202,645
39,539
74-88
'07
3,047,133
37,619
88-74
'06
2,595,937
32,049
95-67
'05
2,024,431
24,993
71-91
'04
1,917,004
23,667
72-90
'03
1,368,245
16,892
43-119
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Tigers Attendance Trend