Gary Bettman Goes to War, Imposes Sanctions on Hamilton

Dave EwenContributor IMay 20, 2009

ST. PAUL, MN - OCTOBER 22:  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (left) talks with 2008 Lester Patrick Award recipient Brian Burke at the Lester Patrick Award Luncheon October 22, 2008 at the St. Paul Hotel in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Scott A. Schneider/Getty Images)

Jim Balsillie has been denied on two separate occasions in his attempts to bring a team to Hamilton, and a possible third denial is imminent.

While Gary Bettman may not like Balsillie personally or professionally, this is not the reason Hamilton does not have a team.

It has become abundantly clear that the Toronto Maple Leafs are pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Southern Ontario is considered Leaf Nation. A referendum may be in order to decide whether or not Hamilton can be considered a distinct society within this nation.

The word “nation” is key in the thinking of Leaf management and many who make their living from the Leafs.

These people believe that it is okay to monopolize an area. This may be good for the Toronto Maple Leafs shareholders, but it hurts everyone else.

The Competition Act states: 

1.1 The purpose of this Act is to maintain and encourage competition in Canada in order to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy, in order to expand opportunities for Canadian participation in world markets while at the same time recognizing the role of foreign competition in Canada, in order to ensure that small and medium-sized enterprises have an equitable opportunity to participate in the Canadian economy and in order to provide consumers with competitive prices and product choices.

(Please see here.)

By having a monopoly in Southern Ontario, there are no other viable options for fans of the NHL. Heading across the border is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive. 

Many times, the media is used to prop up this pathetic NHL organization and sell it to the masses as the greatest product on earth, when it is actually far from it. 

Doug McLean of Sportsnet was on Primetime Sports with Bob McCown last night, saying that the Leafs would put up a huge fight and never accept any amount of money to let another team enter their territory. 

The Leafs can charge whatever they want, put a sub-par team on the ice, ignore the feelings of their true fans, and make a hefty profit.

This is why Bettman has attacked Balsillie, and why Balsillie has chosen to try and go around the league rules. He has to—he has no other choice. 

If those in power at the Leaf headquarters slightly cared about their fans, they would open their arms up to Balsillie. 

If you use the Tim Horton’s franchise as an example for how a business can thrive with competition right next door, you can easily start to see how the team in Hamilton would not hurt the Leafs.

There are many instances where there are two Hortons around the corner from one another and still turn a profit at both places.

The reason is simple. Canadians love Tim Horton's. Canadians also love the NHL. Many Canadians love the Leafs.

This will not change with a team in Hamilton. 

What identifies an act of anti-competition or anti-trust is its exclusionary intent, which seems to be the case here.

Many are wondering why the Leafs’ management has not come out in defense of allegations against the team. The Leafs have kept quiet because they would shoot themselves in the foot if they responded.

If the Leafs deny that they are trying to keep Hamilton from getting a team, Balsillie is in. Balsillie would run with it.

If the Leafs admit that they do have territorial rights to the Hamilton area, this would constitute an abuse of dominant position under the Competition Act, which would be fought in court and lost.

Do not expect to hear from the Leafs anytime soon.

What seems to Hamilton citizens to be annual sanctions placed upon them by Gary Bettman are unnecessary. There is enough to go around, and for the good of the game and the fans, someone needs to get this through the thick heads of those who think otherwise.

Unfortunately for hockey fans everywhere, the courts may be the ones to do just that, and it will take a long time.


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