NHL Owners: Will You Please Stand Up?

Ian FroeseCorrespondent ISeptember 6, 2009

PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 05:  Jim Balsillie Chairman and Co-CEO of Research In Motion and new owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins speaks in a press conference announcing the  purchase of the team after the first period at Mellon Arena on October 5, 2006 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

I figured that as time passed, more sense would be kicked into the NHL regarding their sticky bidding war of the Phoenix Coyotes.

However, I was sadly mistaken.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: I am not a Jim Balsillie fan.

The Blackberry tycoon has proven repeatedly that he will stop at nothing to bring an NHL team to his beloved Hamilton.

You bet, he chose to step on the toes of the man he needed to win over, league commissioner Gary Bettman.

He was so desperate for a team that he was willing to steal one from the vibrant hockey community of Pittsburgh

He’s proven that he’ll stop at nothing on his quest, and neither will the NHL, blocking any chance he’ll get.

Regardless of my opinions on Balsillie, the league must swallow their pride and fall to the best offer.

It’s all because they are refusing to admit that their hockey experiment in the South has failed.

See, back in the early 90s, Bettman dreamed of a huge American TV contract and, in the process, put threw teams in locales that had no prior experience with the sport.

Fast forward to the present, the NHL, unable to admit failure, wants to buy the money-losing venture that is the Coyotes with the intention of selling it back to a third party.

The league claims they have four interested parties. But since none of them have been publicized, it’s hard to argue that the league’s statement is valid.

When Jerry Reinsdorf, a man that knows the dog-eat-dog world of the sports business, owning two professional teams himself, is fed up with the process, you know you have a problem.

He was the league’s only genuine hope to keep the team in America; as Balsillie wants to ship them to Hamilton a year from now, and Ice Edge’s idea wants the Coyotes to also have a home rink in Saskatoon.

While it’s no surprise that no entrepreneurs want to keep the Coyotes in the desert, it is a wonder why the league’s owners haven’t cried foul against Bettman—at least in public.

The Coyotes haven’t made a dime since transferring to Arizona in 1996 and are already being propped up by the league. Now if you add the team to the NHL’s budget, the league will try for themselves to sustain a failed business, even for a limited time.

Some of that money will likely come straight from the owners’ pockets, and they shouldn’t be pleased about that. It’s like they’re putting their cash into a sink hole with no chance of success.

But it goes back to my earlier question: why haven’t the owners said anything?

hey voted unanimously to deny Balsillie as an owner. Understandable because he’s made enemies in the league’s circle, but he can make this team financially viable.

If the owners want to stop losing cash as part of the league’s revenue sharing program, then accepting the highest bid, Balsillie’s, is a step in the right direction. I’m guessing that Bettman has them on a leash because there’s no other reason why the owners haven’t spoken up.

The time has maybe never been better for the owners to unite against Bettman. The commissioner is living in a fantasy world where hockey is more than a niche sport in the States, but that’s far from reality.

Bettman wants his faulty vision to be paid by the owners’ wallets, but instead the owners should turn the tables and give the boot to the league’s boss.