Thursday, May 31, 2007

Is the Cat migration on to Hamilton?

Interesting developments on the Predators front on Thursday, as would be Predators owner Jim Balsillie reached an exclusive agreement to negotiate a lease option for Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, with the city council.

An agreement that has added Hamilton the list of would be homes for wayward kitties, once the Nashville situation clears up.

Balsillie who has put an offer of 220 million out there for purchase of the Predators has said very little as to his plans, leaving vivid imaginations and those with road almanacs to try and determine where he may wish to place his team in the near future.

Hamilton, which has been taken down the NHL road a few times now would make for a centrally located home for a new Southern Ontario franchise, about an hours west of Toronto and south of Kitchener-Waterloo and just east of London, Ontario it has about 8 million potential fans in its area, most of whom probably cheer for a team in Blue and White.

With commuter rail service to and from Toronto and an extensive highway system in Southern Ontario, it’s thought that a team placed in Hamilton would probably have a fair amount of success.

Balsillie’s arrangement of today is an interesting turn as Gary Bettman had said as late as this week, that the Predators were staying in Nashville, which if true makes the movements of today rather strange.

The suspicion is that Balsillie very well plans on moving the Predators to Ontario, with Kitchener-Waterloo considered the eventual destination, though with no rink to speak of at NHL standards, the need to park the Preds grows with each passing press release.

Which is where Hamilton comes in perhaps to provide temporary shelter or maybe as the long term home for the soon to be vagabond Preds, the preference in Hamilton seems to be that the team should put down its roots in the Steel city.

Even better for the people of Hamilton, if Balsillie follows through on his interest they could actually save money on their taxes, hell if he brings hockey to Hamilton and reduces their taxes he could probably become mayor any day he wished.

Time will tell if that might be in the blackberries notes of Mr. Balsillie.

What does seem to be on the horizon however is a potential dispute between Balsillie with the NHL board of Governors and Gary Bettman. If his purchase is approved and they attempt to force him to remain in Nashville, which seems to be a bit of a graveyard for the NHL, how long would it be, before his lawyers begin to rattle some cages about open markets and the need to locate where the best opportunity leads.

Balsillie has already done the NHL owners a huge favour by inflating the expected cost of an NHL franchise. If Nashville is worth 220 mil, what may some of the other troubled franchises command once the bidding is opened.

Gary Bettman may say that the Predators aren’t going anywhere, but somehow you have the feeling that if the guy writing the cheques wishes to find a better home, then he’s going to go ahead and find a better home. After all, there don't seem to be too many billionaires lining up to spend their money on the NHL these days.

If Balsillie continues to hear the "can't do's" from the NHL, he could very well become the NHL’s version of Al Davis, the long time Oakland Raiders owner who regularly challenged the NFL’s power structure, moving between North and south California as he pleased, all while building entertaining and winning football teams.

He developed a penchant for doing what he wants to do with his team, regardless of the wishes of his lodge brothers in the NFL, even if legal means might be required.

At a 220 million dollar purchase price for money losing hockey team, Balsillie might be ready to follow the script that Davis has perfected for years.

No comments: