Sunday, September 06, 2009

Desert Dogged

We have to give Jim Balsillie credit for one thing. He has single handedly prevented NHL observers from having nothing to talk about this summer. But that's about the only good thing this scumbag has in his dealings with the NHL recently.

First of all, credit goes out to James Mirtle who has done an outstanding job of chronicling and following the Phoenix saga and Jim Balsillie's activities surrounding it. Without Mirtle posting the documents for us to read and sift through on our own, particularly the Daly declaration of the NHL's 0-26 vote against Balsillie, we would be left in the dark about why the NHL so strenuously opposes him buying an NHL team.

And that's because from where we sit there are basically two forces at work right now. #1. Only the Canadian media is paying any attention to this story while Balsille wraps himself in the Canadian flag. Balsillie has been handed a huge assist in this whole battle by Canadian media outlets like TSN who have used the graphic to the left in their ongoing coverage of the Phoenix saga. We seriously wonder what the preeminent media ethicists over at the On Frozen Ombudsmen have to say about this. (But we can't because we've been banned from reading that blog.) But it should be noted that Daly has made it clear that it does not oppose franchise relocation nor are they opposed to another team in Canada. The NHL has a serious, and we think rather a legitimate problem with Balsillie. If you bother reading the Daly declaration above, you'd know that he's been gunning to move a team to Hamilton since he tried to acquire the Penguin Scum and an unwillingness to follow league rules as it related to relocation and put a pen to paper to agree to abide by those rules.

Furthermore, there is Exhibit C from Craig Leipold which illustrates Balsillie's actions in Nashville and is further illustration of his disregard for the rules. He is, to use the term, a "Billionaire Bully." He nudged the Predators towards bankruptcy and then demanded total secrecy from Leipold while the transaction was being worked upon. A truly neutral party would ask themselves, "why would they insist upon this?" Furthermore, Balsillie violated the signed agreements between him and Leipold. Why would the NHL want a person like this in their ranks?

To our knowledge, Balsillie has never answered these allegations against him and has chosen to attack the character of current and former NHL Owners instead. It should be pointed out that guys like Bruce McNall and John Spano ended up in jail after purchasing NHL teams and the NHL is not in the business of forensic accounting. While there is certainly some owners that the NHL wished they had never had in league (our favorite still being the initial Japanese owner of the Ning that Gary Bettman never met during the time he owned the team from 1992-1998) it doesn't change the fact that Balsillie acts as if the rules do not apply to him.

But the largest force behind the push for Balsillie to take over the Coyotes and move them to Hamilton is the anti-Gary Bettman sentiment which has reached a fever pitch with this whole Phoenix saga. We happen to believe that if Bettman were willing to accept Balsillie as an owner and pave the way for him to move the Coyotes from Phoenix to Hamilton and/or Winnipeg, many NHL fans would be decrying the move. They would point out the obvious that neither Hamilton nor Winnipeg currently has an NHL size arena. And in the case of Hamilton, they would note that putting three teams in one market is overkill and bad for the third franchise much like the struggles the New Jersey Devils have in a New York market occupied by the Rangers and Islanders.

But nope, the self-appointed hockey purists have used this occasion to once again claim the utter failure of Bettman's "Southern Strategy" and use it as proof positive that the NHL needs to move teams back to Canada or eliminate them entirely. Never mind that one of the self-appointed hockey purists goals is to get the NHL back on ESPN and that reducing the league's profile in the lower 48 while raising it above the 49th parallel would be counter-productive towards that goal. Also don't look at attendance issues in the past ten years in cities like Pittsburgh and New York. Those weren't a "failure" of league strategy. Furthermore, pay no attention to the bankruptcies in Pittsburgh, Ottawa, and Those too aren't an indictment of the local market's ability to support a hockey team.

And how quickly us Caps fans forget our old friend Larry's love letter to A.O. just two years ago now; begging him to go somewhere where his talents would be appreciated and put on display in one location that was sold out 41 times a year. Is anybody now talking about taking the Caps and/or A.O. out of D.C. because of a lack of support? If they are, they're idiots because as we've seen time and time again, success at the box office has more to do with success in the standings than anything else. Sure there are always exceptions but unless a franchise can become an institution in its market, their fortunes at the box office will rise and fall with its win-loss record.

Of course, the fact that the Coyotes are seeing their ticket sales dwindle and their sponsorships dry up is directly related to Balsillie attempting to backdoor his way into the NHL. Would you sign up to support a team in a crummy economy that is not likely to be around much longer? But when the judge clearly states that there is no precedent for him to do what Balsillie is asking him to do (hand over a sports franchise to an potential owner that has been rejected by the league he is seeking to enter) it looks as if Balsillie is going to end up losing this battle with the NHL in spite of the NHL's constantly shifting positions.

While that certainly would not be very satisfying to the anti-Bettman forces and all patriotic Canadians, we here at Bleatings From a Caps Nut respectfully offer this suggestion. We all know that there is bad blood between the two sides here and sometimes the only way to get rid of that bad blood is to have the two sides fight it out mano a mano. Furthermore, most self-appointed hockey purists are also Ultimate Fighting On Ice Fans so let's satisfy their blood lust by having Balsillie and Bettman have a good old-fashioned hockey fight at Arena. And to really hype things up, let's have Balsillie and Bettman dress up in goaltender gear for their fight because we all know that fan go really bonkers over goalie fights! But we feel as though we must add this one caveat to the fight. In the spirit of Bettman's beloved gimmicks, each combatant can only throw one punch at a time and must allow the other party to throw a punch before they can throw their next one. The winner of the fight gets control of the Coyotes and has carte blanche to do with them as they wish. Because let's face it, this is probably the best and quickest way to bring an end to this Phoenix saga which has gone on long enough and shows no sign of ending anytime soon.

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