Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Balsillie is back, and he's bringing it on Mr. Bettman...

Ah yes, the telltale sign of spring, when Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie makes his annual pilgrimage to the NHL offices, cheque book wide open and bid in place for yet another of Gary Bettman's troubled franchises.

Will it be third time lucky for Balsillie? Time will tell, but if ever there was a team that should be had for a song it's the Phoenix Coyotes, but at over 200 million dollars in an offering price, the Coyotes are going for more than a song.

The Ontario billionaire has once again given cause for Gary Bettman to reach for the Tums, as he once again makes his attempt to gain a franchise for the lucrative Southern Ontario market.

Tuesday's drama played out late in the afternoon after it was announced that Balsillie had tendered an offer for the bankruptcy bound Coyotes, an offer that was light years ahead of what any tire kickers may have offered in the past, but an offer that had about as much appeal for Gary Bettman as a bowl of cold soup, left to be eaten in a pouring rain.

Bettman was quick to his talking points to rebut the possibility of any relocation, sticking for now to the NHL line of wanting to help build the brand in Arizona, blah, blah, blah.

That quick update apparently was needed upon the release of the Balsillie press release, that detailed the particulars of the Coyote bid and how he hoped to make hockey more successful in Southern Ontario than the situation that the current owner in Phoenix has had to endure in the last few years.

In fact as the Coyotes prepare for their date with the bankruptcy judge later this week, the tantalizing prospect of being offered more money than they are worth must surely be something that will catch the attention of the judge. After all his role is to try and gain as much fair compensation for the debtors as can be found, and with Balsillie ready to write some cheques, it would appear that he could have finally found his way into ownership after such a long hard past.

Coming as it does during the NHL playoffs, Ballsillie will once again find himself at odds against the head office in New York, where we imagine his name is greeted with looks of daggers and curse words normally heard on a New York city pier. Just imagine the symphony of foul notes coming out of New York when they turn on their computers on Wednesday morning and find makeitseven.ca, a portal devoted to gaining support for a seventh NHL franchise in Canada, one which we gather would be owned by the Blackberry King of Southern Ontario.

His last attempts to purchase teams, whether it be the Penguins or the Predators, came up short after the NHL put in place a number of roadblocks to his plans to move a team to Southern Ontario.

But that was in a period of time where the NHL seemed to still be able to attract investors, that isn't necessarily the case anymore. The Coyotes have been officially on the block for most of this season and perhaps unofficially for long before, and yet despite the Commissioner's best efforts no one, (other than Balsillie) has made an offer to take over the team, especially if it involves actually having to operate the team in Arizona.

But now with the economic situation across North America continuing to cause distress, one has to wonder how long Bettman can keep saying No to the only billionaire seemingly willing to invest in this corporation known as the NHL.

In a week where the Islanders Charles Wang outline how he's paying over thirty million dollars a month just to keep his Islanders alive. And you get the feeling that if they were to hold a vote amongst the current owners, the prospect of letting someone with Ballsillie's financial security get away would be quickly acted upon.

It has been a season which has seen a number of flash fires break out across the NHL's franchises, from Tampa Bay to Atlanta, Nashville and even to a degree the surprise announcement that even the Canadiens may be for sale, having someone with cash ready to purchase and turn around a franchise should be an empty net goal, yet somehow you just know that this is going to be a long drawn out soap opera with no winners in the end, especially hockey fans looking for a little leadership from the NHL head office.

If Mr. Bettman needs to get a hold of Mr. Balsillie, we're sure he can be contacted quickly, perhaps through his blackberry.

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