Jim Balsillie Is Once Again Bettman’s Boogeyman

How can we ever believe anything Gary Bettman says. All along, the commissioner has maintained that every NHL franchise is healthy, the league is doing fantastic, and there’s no need to even consider moving a team or looking at fresh markets. Now we see what’s happened in Phoenix, (Coyotes bankrupt), and the guy Bettman has wanted no part of, Jim Balsillie, has made a big time $212.5 million offer to buy the club and move to it Canada, which Bettman dreads even more than seeing a Canadian team win the Stanley Cup. (Yes, he dreads it that much). What a dilemna for Gary. A nice solid offer to solve the problems of the Coyotes, a team everyone except him knew was in big trouble, but it could go to southern Ontario, which shatters his big dream of seeing a franchise some day in that hockey market to end all hockey markets, Kansas City.

Gary Bettman should go back to his roots, the NBA, where there’s only one Canadian team to have bad dreams about, and bring in a real hockey man. (Ken Dryden?) Bettman’s vision of hockey in non-hockey markets is a distorted, unrealistic, weird dream, liking forming a yacht club in Somalia. Telling the world that Phoenix was on solid ground and not going anywhere a month ago and now in bankruptcy and accepting loans from the league to pay back rent and such, was not only completely incorrect, but a downright lie. He knew this franchise was hovering near a cliff. Is he that stubborn he couldn’t just admit it?

Let’s hope Jim Balsillie is successful in his bid to bring the Coyotes to southern Ontario. And it’s not only $212 million he’s ready to fork out, but another $17 million on top of it to the Coyotes to let them carry on until the sale is complete. And the math is so neat and precise. Subtract one team from a non-hockey market and add one to a hockey-mad area which will undoubtably add serious dollar bills to the league coffers. I did very poorly in math in school, but these numbers I understand completely.

Gary Bettman’s vision of making the NHL a kissing cousin of the NFL, MLB, and the NBA in the US was just silly to begin with. Why couldn’t he see that the TV rights weren’t going to happen like he thought, the corporate and advertising dollars were only a fantasy. Hockey in the US is only a very small piece of a gigantic pie. A franchise in Canada, not Phoenix, not Kansas City, is the only answer. Bettman has never understood this. Jim Balsillie, on the other hand, gets it completely.

9 thoughts on “Jim Balsillie Is Once Again Bettman’s Boogeyman”

  1. Hi Dennis!
    Completely agree with you on this call. Get Bettman back to his old marketing haunts and bring in someone with hockey in his/her veins. Hope Balsillie gets his team in Southern Canada. He has the market and fans. Hockey in Phoenix? Just plain wrong.

  2. Hi Dennis!

    You are 100% correct about Balsillie moving hockey to Southern Ontario where there is a market, demand for hockey and he has the funds in place. Bettman, go back to the NBA and let someone who has hockey in his veins take over.

    Phoenix and hockey, bad idea. Admit defeat and move on.

  3. GREAT post Dennis.

    Especially in these shaky economic times.. developing markets that would have a huge interest in “the product” (NHL hockey) only seems to make sense.

    Maybe it makes so much sense, Gary can’t see it.

    I think there’s no reason for the NHL to stop trying and develop other US markets….. but I see more reasons to move a team into a market where they will be very likely to succeed.

    Hockey hungry winnipeg saw there Jets move only to see that “project” fail. I wonder how they would have faired had they somehow stayed.

  4. I’ve just never heard a good answer from the commissioner – what’s wrong with another team in Canada?

  5. I suspect Bettman just doesn’t like Balsillie. Balsillie is a successful, intelligent Canadian hockey fan who wants to bring a team to a region where he knows there’s an audience. Bettman couldn’t be more different and he probably thinks the solution to Phoenix’s problems would be to start a rivalry by moving Edmonton to Albuquerque.

    Unfortunately Bettman is only a small part of the problem. He’s really only the owner’s puppet (he even looks and sounds the part). The American owners don’t want to deal with crossing the border to visit another Canadian city. Most of them also worry that their already small attendance numbers may decrease because their fans have never heard of Kitchener, Waterloo or even Hamilton. The Buffalo and Toronto owners don’t want to give up any of their local broadcast regions. They’ll never admit it publicly, but the Canadian owners don’t want to share any of their broadcast revenue. The union may even have concerns about the stress of playing for fans and media that care about hockey outside the arena.

    Balsillie’s biggest advantage is that he’s rich and is willing to greatly overpay for a team no one else wants. Last October Forbes (http://forbes.com/nhl) valued the team at $142M and it has probably gone down since. So the big question is how long will it take for the NHL to realize how much money they’re burning while waiting for Phoenix to rise from its ashes. If only there was a strong commissioner (like a Ken Dryden) to help guide them to their best interests.

  6. Those are good points. Maybe if boatloads of money started coming out of these pockets to keep Phoenix afloat, they’ll change their minds in a hurry.

  7. I wonder what Bettman would do if Donald Trump entered the picture and wanted to bring a team to Canada.

  8. I’ll bet Gary Bettman would bow at Donald Trump’s feet and put a team anywhere Mr. Trump wants it to be. Yeah, let’s make it happen. HEY MR. TRUMP, WE’VE GOT A NEW PROJECT FOR YOU!

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