Failed attempt after failed attempt, Jim Balsillie's determination to own an NHL team might finally pay off.
According to Mike Ozanian of Forbes.com, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has told Balsillie that if he "behaves himself and doesn't create any more spectacles and bad publicity for the league, he will eventually get a team."
Being a Hamiltonian myself, I can't help but feel like the chances of seeing a team in my hometown just went up. Then again, the article never specified whether it would be a current team, a relocated team, or an expansion team, so there would still be a lot more questions to be answered. That, and I have to remember that Hamilton has had its share of disappointment.
Balsillie's attempts to bring a team to Hamilton started with his attempt to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins from Mario Lemieux. That was followed by an attempt to buy the Nashville Predators, a sale which involved Balsillie accepting season ticket deposits. It was believed that there was 12,000 season ticket deposits in only five days on the market. After that was the well-publicized attempt to bring the Phoenix Coyotes here two years ago.
Hamilton has been without a team since the Hamilton Tigers left in 1925. There have been numerous attempts other than Balsillie's to bring a team back to Steeltown.
Whether or not there is anything personal between Bettman and Balsillie, this development might just mean that Bettman has finally realized that hockey just isn't working in Phoenix. With the Atlanta Thrashers now moving to Winnipeg, it also seems that Bettman has found out people in Canada like hockey too.
With the inevitable problem of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres interfering in any sale, it will probably take money for them to be appeased and Balsillie has plenty of that.
Also, a team such as Phoenix moving to Hamilton for the 2012-13 season could be moved to the Eastern Conference while Winnipeg takes its rightful place in the Western Conference. The only thing that would have to be done is divisional re-alignment.
Since there is no question that Hamilton would be in the Northeast Division, they could either move Boston or Buffalo to the Atlantic depending on what rivalry they want to keep alive, Toronto/Buffalo or Montreal/Boston. Then, Pittsburgh can move to the Southeast.
Some people might say that Hamilton can't support an AHL team, let alone an NHL team. There is one explanation to refute that claim. Right now, Hamilton's only local hockey team is the Hamilton Bulldogs. Our NHL fan base is split between Toronto and Buffalo. Now, for the Toronto fans, there's a problem with the Bulldogs. The Maple Leafs' most hated rival is the Montreal Canadiens and the Bulldogs are Montreal's farm team. Therefore, attendance might not be as high as it should be.
Hamilton has shown already that they can support an NHL team, selling plenty of season ticket deposits when the opportunity arose in the past, so it should not be a problem of support.
Hamilton might just have received the best news in years and if there is any truth to this report, then next season might be very interesting for fans in southern Ontario.