Why Bettman Is Exploring Every Avenue to Halt Relocation

Bleacher Report Correspondent IMay 7, 2009

PITTSBURGH - APRIL 15:  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman addresses the media during game one of the 2009 Eastern Conference quarterfinals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers at Mellon Arena on April 15, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

With as lengthy of a sabbatical as demonstrated four years ago, the culture of hockey—and its position in North American sports—would be drastically modified.

Such has been the scheme to which commissioner Gary Bettman has adhered, regarding several changes to on-ice rulings and the introduction of a league-wide system of revenue sharing as enhancements to the game’s well-being.

So considering the incessant hatred between Bettman and Research in Motion billionaire Jim Balsillie, one could see why there is much contention when discussing the issue of relocation, its values and vices.

The Phoenix Coyotes, of course, have been suffering gargantuan loss in profits for the past three years, a number amounting to $73 million within that span.

The severity was fully realized when the team was mired in creditor loans, from the city of Glendale, Ariz. to legal firms spread across the Eastern sea board.

After Jerry Moyes, who was dismissed by the NHL as owner of the financially strapped Coyotes, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which incites reorganization in U.S. courts, the issue became one of legalities and subject to litigation, something very unattractive for any sporting league.

Balsillie wants to be the individual to mitigate the NHL’s purported financial problems, a $212 million proposition at that, and has been adamant ever since he laid eyes on purchasing a franchise.

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He previously attempted to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2006 and then again endeavoured to test Bettman’s nerve by electing to purchase the Nashville Predators while selling tickets in Hamilton, Ont., to merit reasons for relocation.

It can be agreed that Balsillie has been far from diplomatic in trying to seduce or force the NHL into entertaining relocation, and his very attitude toward joining the league’s 30-man ownership team has stifled any progress, one could contend.

The way he and Bettman have combated has pervaded the media, too, an almost childish routine between two apparently established businessmen that is reminiscent of one’s days in an elementary school playground.

Vitriol aside, what’s at the core of this mess—which may be decided today if Moyes’ is found by U.S. courts to not have the authority to place the team in bankruptcy and thus potentially end the NHL’s struggle with relocation—has been a fearless, fixated desire on Bettman’s behalf to cater the game to the average fan, or casual fan.

Along with several complaints about fighting in hockey early this year, the subject of relocation is a plan not suited for Bettman’s approach in making the game more universal.

Keeping the game in Phoenix, for example, harbours more worth than a team in southern Ontario because Bettman would be deviating from his intentions to expand the game to untapped markets in the U.S.

If he can excite fans in the Sun Belt, which is still to be accomplished, Bettman’s machinations would be validated and could be deemed a success. He wants to supersede poker on American television; he wants to achieve a stronger report with the American populace.

Staying true to his agenda, as Bettman has unequivocally done thus far, has been his primary strategy in marketing hockey.

He has already moved the NHL awards from its traditional location in Toronto to Las Vegas, so he is adamant in capturing the imagination of fans he wishes to alert and ultimately appease.

Balsillie wants to impose one way; Bettman wants none of it, profit be damned.

It defies logic, to say the least, to even motion an interest in salvaging a team like the Coyotes, who have been absent from playoff action since 2002.

And it would be fairly easy for Bettman to just accept Balsillie’s offer, to reconcile differences between he and his counterpart, and enjoy a large pool of revenue from which other teams—like the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders—can extract finances as a means to compensate for their losses.

(Don’t forget, the Coyotes are not alone in their financial distress).

It would be sensible to have another team to further consolidate a solid foundation to support the NHL’s revenue sharing system and consequently counteract or even negate the NHLPA’s current predicament with escrow payments, correct?

However, that isn’t Bettman’s path to walk, nor is he prepared to be aberrant.

And maybe you can blame the notion of the casual fan for perpetuating the problem.

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