Monday, May 18, 2009

This Boots, ain't made for walkin'

As if Gary Bettman's problems aren't enough, what with the sordid mess coming out of Arizona these days, a name from the past has come back to grab some headlines, reminding hockey fans of the NHL's rather peculiar vetting of prospective owners .

This week saw William (Boots) Del Biaggio III, face the very real prospect of watching hockey (if he still actually follows the game) from the comfy confines of the common area of an American penitentiary.

Del Biaggio, could be spending more than six years in prison, this after he entered a guilty plea to one charge of fraud for using forged financial documents to obtain $110-million in loans from several banks and two NHL owners.

To refresh your memory, around this time last year Del Biaggio was seeking to become a major player in the NHL owners club, (his second attempt after trying for the Pittsburgh Penguins back in 2005) this time hoping to grab up 24-per-cent share of the Predators, the same Predators that the NHL seemed to want to deny to Jim Balsillie, who before his efforts to secure the Coyotes this spring, was considered the shining knight turned away to keep the Predators afloat.

Boots, worked on what is described as a fraudulent scheme to create an impression of wealth and security, that in reality doesn't seem to have been there.

Apparently making a convincing enough account of things to at least get the original green light from the NHL for his attempts to be a minority owner with the Predators, a plan that some suggest was to be the precursor of a move to Kansas City.

Instead, his ownership situation fell apart, as did his financial situation all the while as his legal troubles began to mount, ending to last weeks guilty plea. If nothing else, he might be comforted to know that he has some company in the NHL's rogues gallery, which in recent years have included Bruce McNall, John Spano and John Rigas all of whom have faced jail for financial improprieties.

The timing isn't at all helpful to the image of Mr. Bettman, who seems dedicated to his stubborn resistance of Jim Balsillie, the Canadian billionaire seeking to join the lofty ranks of NHL ownership.

If the NHL's current ownership group (those that aren't preoccupied with bankruptcy or legal arrangements) were to sit the commissioner down, one wonders if they might ask why he would then green light the Del Biaggio bid, questionable as it now seems, while seeking to keep Mr. Balsillie out at all costs.

His answer might prove to be rather illuminating for the owners, who surely must be wondering about how the NHL seeks out their would be owners and if perhaps they aren't trying to scare off the wrong ones...

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