Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jim Balsillie stand by your Blackberry!

The Globe and Mail reveals an interesting twist in the never ending quest of Jim Balsillie to lasso himself an NHL franchise. And this one places Mr. Balsillie as the prospective owner of a second team in the Metropolitan Toronto area.

David Shoalts recounts the informal ruminations of a few of the NHL's Governors who it seems are getting a little tired of the troubled franchises of the south and seek a little stability in a more welcoming environment.

The basic gist of the story is that Balsillie will help to stabilize the Nashville franchise in the short term and then it seems will be rewarded with his own long desired franchise, right in the heart of the most hockey crazy market that the league has to offer.

The idea is to award Balsillie an expansion franchise, but some of the deep throat like executives are apparently shifting the focus away from that (suggesting the league would be a laughing stock to go the expansion route at the moment) and instead to relocate one of the more dire franchises of the south back up into Southern Ontario.

While the sudden infatuation with Mr. Balsillie would be an interesting twist in the long running soap opera, it would be one that will apparently spell doom once again for the folks in Hamilton who have aspirations of joining the NHL through the gracious spending of the Blackberry billionaire.

In Shoalts' article, the idea of Hamilton being allowed into the NHL is almost dismissed out of hand by the secretive sources, with one governor suggesting that Hamilton is nothing but a minor league town and would never be sold to the big boys of New York and Chicago as a legitimate franchise.
The governor apparently not noticing the attendance figures from the "big markets" of Raleigh, Atlanta, Phoenix et al, most of which could only dream of the kind of support that a Hamilton franchise might generate.

They also fear for the Buffalo franchise, outlining a scorched earth scenario where former Buffalo fans turn north instead of south when they get on the QEW from Niagara and send the Sabres into an attendance death spiral, Toronto it seems is bullet proof when it comes to attendance in their opinion, more than capable of taking on the Balsillie squad head on.
If even some of the trails from this story pan out, it marks a remarkable change of thought when it comes to Balsillie, who at times seems to have been treated like a pariah by the NHL ownership class.

That of course was before the new economic reality hit America, an event that has left former millionaires and billionaires rich in paper only and wondering when the next shoe will drop.
Suddenly the bumpkin from Ontario with his fancy communicatin' machine might be a good fit after all.
Leading to a situation where everyone will win!
Well everyone but hockey fans in Hamilton we guess, who once again wander down the path only to find out that it may end in a dead end, yet one more time.

Picture above of Jim Balsillie is taken from a Financial Post sketch found on the media.canada archive site

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