A change in Bettman
The CBC's Elliotte Friedman has a good piece up today on Gary Bettman's changing relationship with Canadian hockey fans, and how it all ties in with the Nashville Predators:
Balsillie's plan now is to play on the patriotism of the other Canadian owners. Ken King, president of the Calgary Flames, did say his personal choice was to have another team here. But that is as far as these guys will go. Bettman's slapped them with a gag order and, rest assured, he will whack anyone who dares to violate it. Before the lockout, Thrashers owner Steve Belkin was fined $250,000 and Pat Quinn $100,000 for labour-related commentary.Well worth a read.
You have to wonder, though, if there is any chance Bettman's power base is eroding.
UPDATE ESPN's Scott Burnside has more here:
If the NHL's board of governors were given a chance to vote, it's hard to imagine Balsillie wouldn't be overwhelmingly approved as the owner of the Nashville Predators, as he was when he prepared to take over the Pittsburgh Penguins.I've said it before, but here it is again: Burnside's one of the best print journalists covering the NHL right now, even though he seems to reside in relative obscurity given his post in Atlanta as a freelancer for ESPN.
If Bettman cannot see that, too, then at some point it will be up to the board of governors to find someone who will.
One of the most interesting bits of his piece, and something that seems obvious but has yet to be reported, is the fact that the players back moving a team to Hamilton. This shouldn't come as a surprise given the revenue boost that would go along with such a relocation, but it's also worth noting that a majority of the league's players are still drawn from north of the border, and while there's been all kinds of bad press regarding players not wanting to play here, Canada — and southern Ontario, in particular — is home to an awful lot of these guys.
In an open vote among the NHLPA membership (and why shouldn't they get a say given Bettman's new "partnership"), Hamilton would win by a landslide.