One more for the clown car
One National Hockey League governor, who requested anonymity, said he and a number of his peers are not happy with the way Balsillie is conducting his bid for the team.
They are upset that while Balsillie is telling people in Nashville the team will not move as long as an arena lease (which has an out-clause based on attendance) is in place, he is also negotiating with Hamilton.
"If you join a club or a fraternity, it is a bunch of people who have to work together in a partnership," the governor said. "Sometimes you have to give up what you want for the greater good of the league. This is not the way to come in [to the NHL].
"In my travels, I've already had people, unasked, say, 'Who is this clown?' I've had three clubs mention this to me."
...the NHL governor said the league does not want to make the mistake of allowing someone to buy a team, only to discover he is a maverick.Well, this is the story du jour, one that's being picked up everywhere. The piece of news that's on the tips of tongues is that Balsillie will sign an agreement to make Hamilton the only possible destination for the Predators, a curious move given so much speculation had the Research in Motion CEO contemplating a shift to his hometown of Kitchener-Waterloo.
"You get in the club and everyone thinks you'll be okay, but you turn out to be a pain in the ass," the governor said. "This guy is showing he is a pain in the ass before he even gets in the club."
In truth, I don't think it matters which destination the team potentially goes to: Southern Ontario is so underserved for NHL hockey that, if you bring a team, people will come. More than 20 per cent of the Buffalo Sabres' season-ticket base is Canadian-based, and Hamilton is a heckuva lot closer to most of this country's high-rollers than western New York.
Still, that's just one of the interesting tidbits in Shoalts's piece, and the sections I've quoted above deserve some attention. It's been rumoured that the NHL's board of governors were and/or would be upset by Balsillie's actions to that point, something the statements of this unnamed owner seem to confirm.
Calling Balsillie a "clown," and doing so anonymously, is choice given some of the actions we've seen over the years from NHL ownership, but if this is the general consensus among the governors, there might be a push to make Balsillie's ownership bid a nightmare (and vice versa). If this is the kind of sniping that's going to come out, it could get awfully ugly, and a protracted court battle may be in the cards.
Then again, that's always been the case. These comments merely confirm the fact that there's dissension among the moneyed.
Still, "a pain in the ass" is probably exactly what this group needs, someone who will challenge the status quo. There are other forward-thinking members on the Board of Governors, but they have long been quieted by the old guard, the Bill Wirtzs of the world who have ruled the roost in the NHL since the dawn of time and made the majority of the imbecilic situations regarding continued expansion and the like.
A maverick? Sounds good to me.
It has surprised me, however, just how brazenly Balsillie and his representation have pursued this lease deal in Hamilton despite the fact the purchase agreement has not been approved, and how openly he has addressed the Nashville media with overtures of his harmlessness.
It's not a surprise that this has set off the BoG's warning meter, as playing the Tennessee audience while working to move the club certainly isn't a way for the league to win friends in the U.S.
All that considered, however, Balsillie's likely to succeed in his crusade for the simple reason that he'd be less of "a pain in the ass" if granted his team than if they try to fight this new development. His legal representation is already on a first-name basis with members of the Canadian sports media, which is an indication of the extent to which Mr. BlackBerry intends to go to in order to get his hockey team.
The twists and turns continue, and I'll have to concur with a friend of mine who emailed me this morning: "At this point, absolutely nothing would surprise me about this whole story."