Last night, an unexpected Nashville hockey news report threw an already weary fanbase into immediate chaos.

The report came out originally from Sportico that former Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is “nearing a deal to purchase the Nashville Predators” in the coming days. From a Yahoo Sports follow-up report, it was confirmed that “the Nashville Predators ownership group, led by Herbert Fritch, is nearing a deal to sell the NHL franchise, according to multiple people familiar with the negotiations.”

Naturally, the Preds fanbase had a lot of questions.

In an attempt to re-group a herd of confused and nervous folks, here’s a quick rundown of the three possible outcomes from a Bill Haslam “purchase” of the Nashville Predators.

Haslam buys part of Preds, but nothing really changes

A quick recap of the Preds current ownership situation. Herb Fritch, who made his wealth in the healthcare industry, is the controlling owner, but there are a total of 16 other owners. Names like Tom Cigarran, David Freeman, Tim Connelly, Warren Woo, Holly Dobberpuhl, and others.

With 16 names on the list of Preds’ ownership, there’s a chance Bill Haslam is merely the 17th name.

The report from Sportico does not specify Haslam will become the sole owner of the team, or even if he will be a controlling owner.

If Haslam is just another name on a long list of names, it seems unlikely that anything would drastically change with the team. Perhaps he’s diversifying his investments, or maybe he wants an in-road to install his current assets in the Nashville market. He may have absolutely no interest in hockey whatsoever.

If this first scenario plays out, this news story will likely fade into obscurity. Haslam’s ownership stake would just be another trivia question.

Haslam buys a controlling stake within ownership group

Another possibility is that Haslam, in the process of becoming the 17th owner, also becomes the controlling owner.

Fritch, the current controlling owner, may in fact be selling his entire ownership to Haslam. Or maybe Haslam is buying the stakes of multiple owners all in one transaction. Again, it’s unclear how much Haslam is buying, only that he is buying something.

This is speculation on my part, but Herb Fritch “selling the franchise” (as Yahoo Sports put it) doesn’t seem to be how this would work. Fritch would likely need more than just his own willpower to sell the entire team, considering the other 15 owners with stakes in the team.

He could, of course, sell his own portion to Haslam, which would result in Haslam owning control of the team, but that doesn’t result in Haslam “owning the Preds.”

Anyway, if this is how it plays out, there could be visible changes to the team and organization. For more on those, let’s just jump to scenario three.

Haslam becomes the sole owner of the Preds

If indeed Haslam buys the Preds outright, becoming sole owner of the Preds, an entire world of possibilities opens up.

The scope of the franchise, the front office staff, the direction of the team, including roster decisions, and the overall mission and fundamental nature of the Nashville Predators would be affected by this. The gravity of this change cannot be overstated.

For years, ever since the purchase in 2007, the Preds have had a secure, yet invisible ownership group. The comfort of having over a dozen owners in the room making reasonable decisions about the franchise has had only one caveat: that no one ever hears from them or sees them. They’ve been largely absent from the public eye.

But since these owners helped carry the Preds out of a dicey situation in 2007, through a nationwide recession in 2008, and into the most profitable and successful years of the franchise, most folks haven’t had much to complain about.

(They’ve also turned a $175 million purchase into a reportedly $680 million valuation, according to Sportico, so they’ve done right by their investment.)

However, if Bill Haslam were to become sole owner, the entire dynamic would shift. The contrast between “16 invisible owners making decisions by committee” to “one person in charge of everything” would be quite dramatic.

Haslam might want to clear the front office entirely, which could cause an avalanche of other changes (coaches, players, scouts, trainers, media relations, etc.). Or maybe he just wants to change a few things (like, I don’t know, the general manager?) and allow the rest of the machine to operate as built.

It’s also likely that Haslam would be more visible than the current owner-by-committee has been. Haslam is the former Mayor of Knoxville and former Governor of Tennessee, so he’s not shy about being in the public eye.

Visible ownerships have a totally different feel from invisible ones. Sometimes they work out great (think Amy Adams Strunk with the Titans) and sometimes they don’t (think Bill Haslam’s brother Jimmy Haslam, who owns the Cleveland Browns). Solo owners can let their emotions guide them without the restraint of an ownership group in the room. That can lead to brilliant decision making, or it can lead to self-implosion.

We honestly have no idea what a Haslam-owned Preds would look like. He’s never owned a hockey team before, nor has he been particularly vocal about the Nashville Predators.

At one point, Haslam had an ownership stake in the Tennessee Smokies, a minor league baseball team in Sevier County. But he sold that to current owner Randy Boyd in 2013. I do not follow the Tennessee Smokies (at all) but I can’t imagine Haslam made a huge impact on that team. (Feel free to correct me on this)

There’s much to learn about what this report means. For now, we can only speculate. The important thing to remember is it’s less about whether Haslam is buying stake in the Preds and more about whether he is going to own them outright. Owning the franchise could lead to dramatic changes, and some are not as outlandish as you might think.

— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —