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Volume 25 No. 177

Franchises

Herb Fritch has "officially assumed control" of the Predators after his partners and the NHL "approved his appointment" as team Chair earlier this week, according to Nate Rau of the Nashville TENNESSEAN. Fritch owns the "largest portion of the hockey franchise" and joined the ownership group in '07 when original Predators Owner Craig Leipold was "considering selling the team to an out-of-town investor with plans to relocate" the team to Hamilton, Ont. Fritch's appointment was "long expected" and the Predators confirmed last April he would succeed outgoing Chair Tom Cigarran. The Predators are "hoping to continue a phase of financial growth and stability in both their business operations and on-ice performance" with Fritch at the helm. He is taking over a "booming business with 131 straight home game sellouts and even a season-ticket waiting list." Fritch said that owners have "not had to answer capital calls in order to cover operating deficits." While much of the Predators' overall financial standing is kept private, Fritch said the franchise is "very stable." He added, "Our balance sheet continues to get stronger." Rau notes the appointment of Fritch ensures that President & CEO Sean Henry and President of Hockey Operations & GM David Poile will "stay in their jobs" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 1/11).

CHANGING OF THE GUARD: Cigarran said he will still have his "ownership position" and will be an "alternate governor" for the franchise. He said, "Herb will be the governor. I’ll still be a huge Predators fan, I’ll still go to the games when I’m in Nashville. But I won’t have to worry about the business." Cigarran added, "We are financially stable for the long run. Herb’s job is going to be to take it to the next level. We’re never satisfied. We can always do better, we can always do more" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 1/10).

A vocal minority of Padres fans has the team seriously considering returning to brown uniforms
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The Padres likely will be "wearing brown uniforms" in '20 following the results of a recent fan survey, according to Nick Canepa of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. Padres Exec Chair Ron Fowler said, "If I were a betting man, I'd say we're in brown uniforms in 2020." He added, "We've done a lot of research. Brown may be the minority, but it's the most vocal minority and the largest minority -- greater than blue and the old Pacific Coast League uniforms." Canepa notes Fowler "hasn't backed away from his dislike" of the brown uniforms that were predominantly worn in the '70 and '80s, and he "held out as long as he could." Fowler: "It's what the fans want. The reality is we want people to be passionate about the team and they are passionate about brown. ... We did listen to the fans when it came to improving the ballpark too. People wanted certain things, and we did them. There are more events at [Petco Park], more concerts. We've taken care of Petco" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 1/11).

HISTORY LESSON: In San Diego, Jeff Sanders noted the Padres on Saturday will officially unveil their 50th anniversary logo at the team's FanFest at Petco Park, though an image of a "classic Swinging Friar set against a large '50,' apparently pulled from a toy manufacturer box, has already leaked online." The FanFest is free, and those in attendance will be able to "run the bases, throw off the mound in the visitor's bullpen and field fly balls in the outfield." Autograph sessions with "various current and former Padres and broadcasters will take place at three designated locations" around the ballpark (SANDIEGOUNIONTRIBUNE.com, 1/10).

The Bruins academy will feature Pride players helping tutor female first-timers ages 4-10
Photo: BRUINS

The Bruins have partnered with the NWHL Boston Pride to "help grow the women’s game in Massachusetts and New England," becoming the "fourth NHL team to partner with an NWHL club," according to Matt Porter of the BOSTON GLOBE. The Bruins will “assist the Pride financially" and support the team's "marketing and player development efforts." The organizations will launch a "girls’ learn-to-play academy, in which Pride players will help tutor female first-timers ages 4 through 10." Similar to a Bruins’ program launched in '14, attendees "will get equipment, fitting, and four weeks of instruction for a $100 fee." The Bruins will also "host their third annual Girls Hockey Day on Feb. 8 at TD Garden, with clinics and scrimmages for girls and women of all ages." Pride players were at TD Garden for Thursday’s Capitals-Bruins game to "promote the partnership." Women’s hockey "represents a small but growing portion of USA Hockey’s membership." Of the 562,145 players the organization registered in '17-18, about 14% (79,355) "were women and girls." The organization reported a 4.65% "uptick in women’s registration from the previous year" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/11). In Boston, Marisa Ingemi notes there has "been an expressed hesitance for the Bruins to 'take sides'" by partnering with either the Pride or the CWHL Worcester Blades, who were "formerly in Boston." Given it is the Blades’ "first season out of Boston, it likely made the decision to pair up with a pro women’s hockey team in town a bit easier." Bruins President Cam Neely: "We certainly didn’t want to have to pick one over the other. It’s tough to work with both. ... It made it a little bit easier just to focus on the Pride right now" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/11).

The Rams' Zac Taylor has been tied to the Bengals' coaching vacancy, and THE ATHLETIC's Jay Morrison wrote whomever the next coach is "will be in charge of a significant rebuild in terms of the fan base." There probably is not anyone the Bengals can hire "who will create an immediate spike in season-ticket sales." It will be a "long, slow process to win back many of the people" who think that former coach Marvin Lewis' departure was "only half of what the franchise needs." Bengals Owner Mike Brown "ceding control" to his daughter and son-in-law, Bengals Exec VP Katie Blackburn and VP Troy Blackburn, is "as close to a front-office shakeup in the family-run organization as there is ever going to be" (THEATHLETIC.com, 1/9).

KNOW YOUR ROLE: THE ATHLETIC's Jason Lloyd wrote under the header, "Jimmy Haslam's Fingerprints Are Not On Freddie Kitchens Hiring." Lloyd wrote Haslam "hasn't done much right since purchasing the Browns, but give him credit for this much: He finally seems to have recognized it was time to get the hell out of the way." Hiring Kitchens was "perhaps a matter of not overthinking matters." The "applause" for Haslam and Browns GM John Dorsey is for the "discipline both men showed throughout this process." Depending on "how things go, this might have been Dorsey's first and only shot at hiring a head coach." It would have been "easy for him to go back to Green Bay or Kansas City and pick someone he knows." The fact that Dorsey "didn't dip into his pocket and pull out his list" is a "credit to him for not trying to get too cute" (THEATHLETIC.com, 1/10).

KANGOL KOOL: In Tampa, Rick Stroud wrote the Buccaneers have not had a coach "with as much swagger" as Bruce Arians has since the days of Jon Gruden. Arians "commanded the auditorium" during his introduction Thursday. He worked for CBS this season, though he "got the itch again to coach" midway through the campaign. He said, "After about eight games of broadcasting and going to practice and watching each team do it ... I almost stepped out on the field in Houston and corrected [Texans S] Tyrann Mathieu. I was like, 'Whoa. That's not my team.' Yeah, that started a fire again" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/11).

CLOCK IS TICKING: In Detroit, Bob Wojnowski wrote this may be Lions Exec VP & GM Bob Quinn's "last best shot, entering his fourth season, to show he can do it, and he needs to treat it that way." Quinn needs to "embrace the possibility with aggressive moves that deliver short-term benefits, not just long-term promises." Wojnowski: "He doesn't need to make a bunch of huge, showy moves, but he can't act like he has time for a leisurely rebuild" (DETROIT NEWS, 1/10).

In Chicago, Joe Cowley writes "no other GM in the NBA would still have a job" with Bulls GM Gar Forman’s track record. The "final straw should have been" the firing of coach Fred Hoiberg, who was "handpicked" by Forman. However, Forman, who was "quietly rewarded with a contract extension last year, came out unscathed after Hoiberg was let go." With the Bulls this season "now at the halfway point with a 10-31 record, Forman’s untouchable standing with his bosses still comes in as the biggest surprise" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/11).

CASE CLOSED: THE ATHLETIC's David O'Brien cited sources as saying that the Braves "will not forfeit the No. 9 pick" of the '19 Draft, which is "compensation the Braves receive after failing to sign" P Carter Stewart, their top pick in last year’s draft. The MLBPA "filed the grievance on behalf of Stewart," alleging that the team "did not make the financial offer to him that’s required to receive the compensation pick." However, an arbitration panel "ruled in the Braves’ favor." The Braves "made an undisclosed offer below slot value after becoming concerned about a right-wrist injury when the team did a full examination after the draft" (THEATHLETIC.com, 1/10).

STILL ON BOARD: Former Hurricanes Exec VP & GM Ron Francis has "remained an investor in the team as a member of Hurricanes Holdings LLC" since being let go in May of last year. He said that he "will continue that financial relationship" until November. Francis added that his contract with the team ends June 30 (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 1/11).