Now it's all out there. Every irrational gut feeling, every teeth-grinding, fist-clenching angry rumbling that Canadians and a good many sympathizers south of the border have had toward NHL commissioner-for-life Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and the usual gang of idiots down on Madison Ave. is totally legit.
Honestly, it always felt like most hockey fans took a dislike to Bettman on sight when he took office in 1993 and never had a real reason to dislike him. He was the basketball guy, nothing wrong with that. Most never gave him a chance, but pushing aside Jim Balsillie, Hamilton and Southern Ontario for a lesser offer for the Nashville Predators from William (Boots) DelBiaggio and Kansas City, Missouri -- where the late, unlamented Scouts relocated during a commercial break in 1976 and no one noticed -- tears the lid right off the jar. Everything you feared about Bettman and his ilk is true, kind of like with Dick Cheney.
The people in Hamilton -- jilted by the NHL how many times now? -- should clear the store shelves of all NHL merchandise and dump it into Hamilton Harbour. Dump it into the Red River in Winnipeg and the St. Lawrence in Quebec City. While we're at it, let's do it it in each of the Canadian NHL cities too, since what Bettman has done is send a giant eff-you to the country where the game matters most.
In the words of an old Seinfeld episode, "Let's get this straight -- you held out, for less money." Balsillie anted up $220-$238 million U.S. for the Predators, plus possible indemnity payments to the Leafs and Buffalo Sabres and the costs of a new arena to replace Copps Coliseum a few years down the road. DelBiaggio puts up $190 million and he's apparently going to get the team, in a city where the NBA and NHL have each failed.
James Mirtle puts it best: "Even insane funds, it seems, aren't enough to knock some sense into the NHL."
How can anyone in Canada support this league without feeling a little guilty or indulging a screw-you, I-got-mine attitude? Is it reasonable to wonder how much, if it all, the Canadian teams, particularly the two based in Ontario, played a a part in greasing the skids? The Leafs might not have a lot of pull, but their wariness of competition in the Southern Ontario market is well-established. Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, understandably, has his own interests to look after with respect to broadcast territory.
Maybe so, maybe not. At the end of the day, there is Bettman, always. The man with a Napoleon complex broke out the dynamite to blow up the best hockey story in years, just to flex his muscles. Take that, BlackBerry boy and all you bumpkins from Canada! Meantime, for anyone who thinks Balsillie was too ballsy, get some sense: God forbid that someone who's made tens of millions of dollars should carry himself with confidence when confronted by a bunch of dopes in suits bent on busting the NHL down to a bus league.
How else can you feel about Gary Bettman after seeing the dream die, after seeing the NHL once again fail to get it that the Golden Horseshoe, Canada's most populous region, could easily support two NHL teams? The Predators in Hamilton would have breathed some life into a flatlining Toronto hockey scene, forced those among us who realize the blue-and-white is for eternity to justify our support of a team that hasn't played for the Stanley Cup since my mom and dad were Grade 9 students. It was exciting just to think the NHL had come down with a strain of common sense.
Instead Bettman gets to keep his dream of American expansion. To paraphrase from Knocked Up, this summer's hit comedy, he's living his vision, and that's just sad.
You know how they have the Subway Series in baseball with the Mets and Yankees? Well, this would have been something similar for hockey, something unprecedented in Canadian sport. Oh no, we couldn't have that sort of thing, not on Gary Bettman's watch. Kansas City, here we come.
(Co-Blogger Neil Acharya, incidentally, deserves much of the credit for shaping this post.)
Balsillie gets the Boots (James Mirtle)
Motion ends for Balsillie's bid (Canadian Press)
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