Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The start of Balsillie season

Obviously, the rooting interest is that BlackBerry boy, Jim Balsillie, has found a way to split the defence pair of MLSE and Gary Bettman.

Others have already pointed out that in a Chapter 11 proceeding, the court typically makes its ruling based on what's best for the creditor(s). In other words, it would go beyond the NHL's the court says what's best is for the Phoenix Coyotes to be sold to this group which will only buy on the condition it can relocate the team. You can imagine the legal wheels spinning.

The chain of events, you know about: Balsillie sounded off about buying the Coyotes and assuming the franchise's debt as long as he can move it into Southern Ontario. Within 25 minutes of Balsillie putting out his press release, a second one went out saying the Coyotes have filed for Chapter 11 reorganization, which "include(s) a proposed sale of the franchise to PSE Sports & Entertainment, LP, a Delaware limited partnership ... which would move the franchise to southern Ontario, Canada."

Sure, it would have be a frosty Friday in July before MLSE would give up its turf in Toronto, but that bridge won't have to be crossed for a while. There might be very little that Bettman or the Leafs could do to stop it. A settlement with some compensation for territorial rights seems fairly plausible.

Puck Daddy believes it will happen:
"So the franchise that relocated from Winnipeg in 1996 appears on the brink of moving back to Canada. The near-fanatic obsession of the Canadian media with the failure of this franchise — fueled by a desire to 'get one back' from the States, or to see Wayne Gretzky coaching a Canadian team, or both — appears to have been warranted."
Here's what Balsillie said:
"The current team ownership asked that I table an offer to purchase the Coyotes and significant discussions resulted in an offer that is in the best interests of the franchise, the NHL, and the great hockey fans of Canada and Southern Ontario.

"... I am excited to move closer to bringing an NHL franchise to what I believe is one of the best un-served hockey markets in the world, Southern Ontario. A market with devoted hockey fans, a rich hockey history, a growing and diversified economy and a population of more than 7 million people." — via press release

It can be conceded that people are probably getting Balsillie fatigue at this point and don't want to hear about it until he either does succeed in repatriating a franchise from the U.S. Sunbelt or gives up. Your guess is as good as any as to which is more likely.

Chicago Bulls/White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is also rumoured be kicking the tires with the Coyotes. The players' association has a vested interest in seeing a second team put in Southern Ontario. It wouldn't hurt the Toronto Maple Leafs one bit. The competition would be good for both sides.

Who knows if Jim Balsillie will succeed, but you have to admire his chutzpah. The NHL might not like the way he carries himself, but money-wise he's good for it as far as anyone knows, unlike some of the folks the NHL has welcomed into the owners' ranks. He's wanted a NHL team he can move to Southern Ontario (did you notice he never said he was interesting in buying the Montreal Canadiens?)

According to blogTO, more than 2,000 people signed up at makeitseven.ca within 100 minutes of its launch.

The NHL is going to make this very hard for Balsillie and pull out every stop. Keep that in mind.

Balsillie Makes Offer To Purchase Phoenix Coyotes (Canada NewsWire)


Dennis Prouse said...

Has Balsillie ever put the League in a box. The fact that this deal will be resolved in bankruptcy court means that a judge, not the NHL, will decide who gets to buy the team. If the Balsillie bid is the best for creditors, and it is virtually impossible to imagine how it wouldn't be, then it gets approved. There is sweet nothing Bettman can do about it.

I am not a Bettman basher by nature, and I don't believe he is the Devil incarnate. On this file, though, it certainly appears as if it has become personal for him. He seems determined to keep a team out of Southern Ontario just to prove some kind of point about who is in charge. On this one, though, the other owners will certainly have something to say about it. Do they all want to cough up $2 million each to keep the Coyotes in the desert for another year, in addition to the equalization money they pay already? I doubt it.

One fly in the ointment, though, is the fact that this would cut the Canadian TV money seven ways now instead of six. Balsillie would have to come to some kind of agreement on that before this goes forward. It sure looks to me, though, that the Hamilton Coyotes will be hitting the ice for camp in September, with Wayne Gretzky coaching about 40 km from his boyhood home. (I'm sure Janet is going to LOVE Hamilton.)

sager said...

They could buy a house in Port Dover ... it's only a hour away.

Anonymous said...

If the team moves to Hamilton, I hope they keep Howler. He's a good mascot.

Mike Radoslav said...

Even though I'm from Steeltown I don't believe the team should be placed there - either K/W or somewhere else in the GTA. The city of Hamilton is struggling big time and Copps Coliseum is in need of massive renovations to the point where it would be just as good to place a team in one of these other locations that are stronger centres and also have large populations (plus better track records of supporting their local teams).

I hope that Balsillie is granted the team and moves it to Southern Ontario. It's a well known fact that he partially wants to do it to add to RIM incentives (giving away boxes/tickets to potential employees/investors), however on the whole it WILL help serve hockey fans in this area better. And it will improve the Leafs as well, who would no longer have a stranglehold on hockey in the area and might actually have to start performing ;)

If New York can have 2 teams and they don't support hockey as much as this area I don't see why Southern Ontario can't be given a second team. They could likely put 3 teams in this region and all would sell out and turn profits. Hopefully the courts rule in favour of Balsillie and not Bettman.

Anonymous said...

Many have said toronto is not a hockey town but a leaf town.


Mike Radoslav said...

Well I don't believe totally that - sidenote I've always thought it IS more of a basketball town than not, so don't believe the "Toronto isn't a basketball town" either!

Anyways regardless of whether it is or not since, what, roughly 90% of Leafs tickets are sold to corporations the majority of hockey fans that DO exist within Southern Ontario don't get the chance to make it out. And when they do it's few and far between. There will never be a boycott of Leafs game because there's so many people that will get tickets once in a blue moon, they'll absolutely jump at an opportunity to go!

While yeah lots of corporate seats would be scooped up for this proposed team as well it would likely give everyone unable to catch a Leafs game a chance to make it out to see some NHL action. Consider how many people that would be and it stands to show that this team would be doing quite well for themselves with this population base.

Anonymous said...

JUst because the leafs sell out and there is a waiting list.THat does not alone make toronto a good hockey market.


John Edwards said...

Hamilton must surely only be a temporary option. The chances of getting decent dates at the ACC (the only other option in the area) are pretty remote - especially for next year.

The plan, I imagine, is to bunk at Copps until something new (K-W possibly, but I think the area by Pearson makes more sense) gets built.

Mike Radoslav said...

Jaymem - I assume when you wrote "Mark" you meant "Mike", correct me if I'm wrong though

Yes sell outs, especially corporate based ones, do not denote that an area is a hockey town or not. It does show there's interest but yeah, doesn't mean it's a great hockey town when it could be just the corporations at work.

However OHL attendances aren't that bad around the area, the clubs are supported well. There is proof of hockey support in Southern Ontario and I think that's the most important thing to remember. There's so many people within an hours drive of TO this isn't just about "is Toronto a good hockey town", this is more about "is Southern Ontario a good hockey location?" I feel that it is, and has proven so, and would continue to support.

I agree with you John that Copps would only be a temporary solution, wouldn't make sense to keep them there long term.

Anonymous said...

For a ohl team to avg 2,000 is really not that good.Who knows how many of that was paid.The marlies in the same boat not good support.I am not saying this about you.But there are some toronto people that say bla ottawa is not a hockey market if they can't sell out weeks a head.Yet over and over ottawa support there team very good.Theere were some days where the senators/67s/olypiques are played on the same day and all sold out.

sager said...

Ottawa is a good hockey market, but for someone in Ottawa to question how many of Brampton's fans actually pay to get in is a bit rich, no disrespect.

The 67's use vouchers to good effect to get 8,000-9,500 people in the regular season, then attendance often drops 50 per cent in the playoffs. There's nothing wrong with using vouchers, either, especially since it makes it more affordable for families with children to go to games.