Don't Be (Bal)sillie, It's Time For Canadian Millionaire to Get His Team

Derek HarmsworthSenior Writer IMay 6, 2009

Admittedly, I don't really like Jim Balsillie.  Perhaps it's his aggression in pursuit of an NHL team that has made him seem somewhat egomaniacal.

And no, I am not one of those Ontario people who doesn't want a team treading on Maple Leafs territory.  In fact, I welcome it.  Competition breeds productivity.  The reasons one may abstain towards Balsillie is a little obvious though. 

After all, everyone has seen the image of Balsillie flashing his BlackBerry at a television camera, his phone background featuring a logo of the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team he thought surely he would be buying within days.  

It didn't happen.

Then of course there was the time he sold season ticket deposits for the Hamilton Predators on Ticketmaster.  Again, only one problem.

It wasn't his team.

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So needless to say, there were more than enough eyes rolling when it was announced last night that the Canadian millionaire had placed a bid to buy the beleaguered Phoenix Coyotes.

And while his first two attempts to get NHL franchises, and relocate them to Southern Ontario have failed, there is reason to believe that the third time may in fact be the charm.

So long as it's done properly.  And by properly I mean the Gary Bettman standard.

Bettman is a the equivalent of a guy who enters the pool in the summer slowly.  He'll put his feet in first.  Then, after some time, he will be in up to his waist getting used to the water.  

Balsillie on the other hand, is the guy who barely gets his shirt off before running full tilt and diving into the water in cannon-ball fashion.

Yeah, they're a little different.

Still, they should finally work out their differences.  The timing of another franchise in Canada couldn't be better.

Now, Bettman and Balsillie are a little more successful than I will likely ever be in my lifetime.  Still, I feel the need to offer them some advice.

To Jim.  Mr. Balsillie.  Please, for the love of the game, shut up and follow the standard practice. 

What Gary Bettman deems appropriate diligence in the long, arduous process of securing an NHL franchise may seem ridiculous.  But just be patient Jim, and jump through the hoops.  At least until you get the team, then you're free to do as you wish.

And you, Mr. Bettman.  For the love of the National Hockey League, get this deal done. 

I understand it was under your watch that the Winnipeg Jets moved and became the Phoenix Coyotes.  Surely, moving the Coyotes back to Canada may be seen as admitting a mistake.

So do it.  Admit you made a mistake.  

You see, a lot of people don't like you Mr. Bettman.  And really, even if you did this move, a lot of people still wouldn't like you.  But I think you can earn some ilk by standing up in front of all the fans and media around the world, and admit you were wrong about the expansion to Phoenix.

Don't cop out.  Don't blame it on the economy.  Stand up, be a man, and admit your mistake.  It takes a big man to admit you made a mistake, especially one that has cost millions and set the league and team themselves back years.

Now, I am not a business expect.  But even someone such as I can see what sort of market the NHL would have on their hands with a move to Southern Ontario. 

In today's recession, this is the closest thing the NHL will come to a sure thing.

Despite the failing economy, there wasn't a building in Canada that wasn't sold out at any time during this hockey season.  A team in Southern Ontario (let's just call it Hamilton) basically guarantees the NHL 41 games with a sell out crowd of around 20 thousand.  

And you want to talk marketability?  Since the post-lockout NHL, there has been an onus placed on marketing the game.  In a market such as this, the marketing possibilities are endless.

And how would you spell marketability in this hockey crazy area?





Aside from Shane Doan, the latest version of Captain Canada, you have four young stars who scream to be marketed.  Advertisements, endorsements.  It could all be yours NHL, if you make this move.

And I would be remiss if I left out the biggest piece of marketing the Coyotes have in their arsenal.

Wayne friggin' Gretzky.

Having "The Great One" coaching so close to his hometown would allow more regular appearances of Walter, everyone's favourite hockey dad, and would also allow Wayne to make a ton of popular appearances in the Southern Ontario area.  

The bottom line is, Gary Bettman needs to check his ego at the door.  Jim Balsillie, needs to check his ego at the door.  

The two of them, whether they like it or not, need each other.

Whether you like Jim Balsillie or not, it's hard to dispute that he is a healthy owner, who has more than enough backing to keep up a successful hockey team, both on and off the ice.

Part of the biggest reason the NHL expanded to these non-hockey states is because Gary Bettman feels this game of hockey is so great, everyone should get the chance to see it.

And you know what?  He is dead right.

This is the greatest game on earth.  It's fast-paced, exciting, and their is skill on display that can't be trumped.  I am a firm believer that if you take a non-hockey fan to a live game just once, you have made a fan for life.  Clearly Gary Bettman feels the same.

But don't sweat it Gary.  Just because the team would be moving to a new market, a hockey crazy one in Southern Ontario, doesn't mean your dream of creating new hockey fans has to die.

There will be plenty of new fans who will get the thrill of seeing the NHL for the first time in it's new Southern Ontario home.

A family of five who wants to go to a game, but won't spend $800 on one night out for a game in Toronto, will be able to check out the new team, at a lower price.

It's hockey.  It's Canada.  And it's a market that isn't a gamble.  It's a sure thing.

Unfortunately the process towards getting the team in it's rightful spot, doesn't seem so sure.