Nashville Predators For Sale: Rich Canadians Need Not Apply

Aaron BalsillieCorrespondent IJune 4, 2008

The Blackberry, one of the most popular “must-have,” techno gadgets of businessman—and slacker alike—has made Jim Balsillie a very wealthy man.

When you have literally millions of disposable cash, you are able to do a lot of things you and I can only dream of—like own an NHL Franchise.

Jim Balsillie by all accounts is a reasonable man and a top-notch businessman as well.  So, why is the NHL basically treating his persona non grata?  And attempt to buy the cash-strapped, soon to be arena-less Penguins?

A second attempt to buy the Nashville Predators seemed to be a done deal, an ideal seller, and a willing buyer willing to pay well above market price for the team.  Nashville was a team on the rise, young, talented, and coached to perfection.

Only one problem, Nashville is known for country music, not hockey, and building a fan base was a problem.  Nashville had a buyer and a man who wanted to rescue a team from its own fate and market as well—Moving it to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

It baffled many hockey fans. Why on earth is the league so unilaterally opposed to moving a team back to Canada?  Quebec City and Winnipeg lost their teams to the United States.

Gary Bettman and his sun-belt hockey plan took teams out of solid markets, like Minneapolis and Hartford, and moved them to experimental markets, like Dallas and Raleigh respectively.

The move to Carolina was so disastrous, that the team initially offered flight and ticket packages to fans in Hartford to come down and support “their” former Whalers.

On the other hand, Dallas turned out to be a better story, but having a successful team, also, helps.

Colorado had been another question mark, but winning the Stanley Cup the very first season was a major plus for the franchise.

Only minutes from the New York boarder, Hamilton is a huge hockey town, hungering for years of an NHL team of their own.  It would be right outside Toronto's "zone of control", a ring around markets to prevent encroachment by other teams—the Buffalo Sabres.

Balsillie knew this, and planned to move the team there. He had an arena lined up, and began advance selling of season tickets.  That's when Gary Bettman stepped in.  He would not approve the sale of the team if was to be moved to Canada.

There are certainly worse things than moving a team into a booming market where the game was born.  It's like saying we're expanding the NFL to Mexico, and we're going to send Patriots and the Cleveland Browns to start, and no more teams will be added to the U.S.

The worse thing is, it started a very uneasy relationship between Jim Balsillie and the league itself—almost like Jim Balsillie is hesitant about showing interest in a team, solely due to the fact he thinks that Bettman will reject it out of hand.  Despite Bill Daly's constant assurances that there is no bad blood between Balsillie and Bettman, Bettman himself has not denied it.

Today TSN.CA released a story, that Balsillie's money is “still good.”  According to the report, eight ownership groups: Dallas, Atlanta, Carolina and Tampa Bay are among them. They are in negotiations according a report from the Canadian newspaper, The National Post.

While it’s still not clear whether or not they are interested in selling a team to Balsillie, they might merely offering him to own a part of the team.

What’s also puzzling is why the NHL finds Balsillie's overtures so offensive? According to Richard Rodier, Balsillie's advisor, "The commissioner made it very clear he does not want Jim in the league under any circumstances, period."  However, like stated before, it is Bill Daly who is coming to the commissioner's defense, not the commissioner himself.

While Bettman feels the need to have Bill Daly come to the rescue is unclear.  It actually makes Bettman look like a coward.  Daly insists it is the owners, not the commissioner who makes this decision: that the sale of a team is dependent upon how the other 29 teams feel about it.

That it is "not something that the commissioner decides."  Well, it’s interesting to know, since it is well known that Bettman was involved when it became known that Balsillie was going to take his team back above the 48th Parallel.

Anything that grows the game helps all the teams in the NHL.  Balsillie's foray into selling season tickets showed only one thing—he had an overwhelming fan support back home.

This is just another example of Gary Bettman trying to bend the NHL to what he thinks it ought to be.  This is not the NBA. The NHL is still wounded by the lockout and does not have nearly close to the public visibility the NBA has.

It has been learned that Gary Bettman owns a Blackberry, I wonder if he'd been having any problems with it recently?


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