Friday, June 06, 2008

Is Balsillie Bad For The NHL??

It's pretty crazy that within hours of seeing the TSN article about Research-in-Motion's CEO Jim Balsillie's camp trading harsh words with the NHL, my June 10th edition of the Hockey News showed up with Ken Campbell talking about Balsillie's quest to get another Canadian team in the NHL, with Quebec City being the possible destination.

If nothing else, you have to give Balsillie credit for keeping his name out there.

It almost makes you wonder if Balsillie is the Mark Cuban of Canada. It's hard to deny this guy's desire to get a team and make it a winner, as well as a profitable venture. Also, he's a tech wizard who has drawn the ire of the other NHL owners, to the point where he may not be able to get a team because of the hatred towards him by the other owners.

In the TSN article, Balsillie's camp has said that there have been eight teams who have contacted Balsillie about his interest in owning the teams. Richard Rodier, who is Balsillie's advisor, claimed that the NHL made it clear that they don't want Balsillie as an owner in the league. Bill Daly countered saying that it's not up to the league as a whole, but the 29 other owners who have to approve this move. That would be a sincere statement if it seemed that Gary Bettman didn't want anything to do with Balsillie when he was in the Nashville Predators deal or the Pittsburgh Penguins deal.

Albeit, I have to side with the NHL on the Predators situation considering that Balsillie didn't own the team and was already selling tickets for the Predators....out of Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario. Usually moving a team that you don't own and starting to sell season tickets and luxury boxes will have the league frown upon that. That's like me moving a team to Kansas City and started selling tickets...especially since I own neither a team, nor the Sprint Center.

Yet, with all the controversy surrounding Balsillie, is he really as bad for the NHL as the head office would have you to believe??

To be honest, he's the kind of maverick the league needs to get some more exposure. He's a guy who, while rough around the edges, could bring more good than bad to the league. Like I said, I draw comparisons to Mark Cuban. Plus, the connections that Balsillie has in regards to RIM and his tool the BlackBerry, it could very well be in the best interest in the NHL to allow Balsillie to own a team. His business sense knows no bounds and really could help bring any team he had to the next level in terms of exposure and revenue-- which the owners all love.

Now, with that thought-- how will Balsillie acquire a team. Though his camp has said eight teams have approached him, you would almost think that expansion would be the easiest route to go. With rumors of prospective owners like Balsillie and Jerry Bruckheimer wanting to dip into expansion, it seems that it could be right over the horizon for the NHL-- regardless of what some pundits may say. Even NHLPA Director Paul Kelly said that NHL expansion into Canada is common sense-- which is where Balsillie could come in.

In the end, if the NHL owners and Board of Directors shut down any attempt at Jim Balsillie to own a NHL franchise because they don't like his style or like what his motives are-- it seems to me to be a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face. Balsillie is a smart businessman who really would be an asset to the league. Even if he does ruffle a few feathers, the amount of attention he'll draw to the league will be like....well....what Mark Cuban did for the NBA.

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