Malcolm Gladwell Explains Why "CrackBerry" Balsillie Will Win Coyotes

Martin AverySenior Writer IMay 16, 2009

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

Jim Balsillie, billionaire and co-CEO of BlackBerry manufacturer Research In Motion, had the bestselling author of Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell, as his college roommate. In his new book, Outliers, Gladwell explains the success of elite hockey players, The Beatles, Microsoft's co-founder Bill Gates, and various Americans living in New York City.

Maybe he could explain why his buddy Balsillie is a billionaire and why he will win his battle over NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman—eventually.
Gladwell's book begins with his research on why a disproportionate number of elite hockey players are born in the first few months of the calendar year.

The answer, he points out, is that youth hockey leagues determine eligibility by calendar year.

Children born on Jan. 1 play in the same league as those born on Dec. 31 in the same year. Adolescents born earlier in the year are bigger and more developmentally advanced than the others.

They are often identified as better athletes, leading to extra coaching and a higher likelihood of being selected for elite hockey leagues.

Outliers asserts that success depends on the idiosyncrasies of the selection process used to identify talent just as much as it does on the athletes' natural abilities.

Gladwell noted that "the biggest misconception about success is that we do it solely on our smarts, ambition, hustle and hard work." He shows there are a lot more variables involved in an individual's success than society cares to admit. He wants people to "move away from the notion that everything that happens to a person is up to that person."

And then there's Gladwell's theory about ten thousand hours. Gladwell repeatedly mentions the "10,000-Hour Rule", claiming that the key to success in any field is simply a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of 10,000 hours.

The Beatles performed live in Hamburg, Germany over 1,200 times from 1960 to 1964, amassing more than 10,000 hours of playing time, therefore meeting the 10,000-Hour Rule.

Gladwell asserts that all of the time The Beatles spent performing shaped their talent, "so by the time they returned to England from Hamburg, Germany, 'they sounded like no one else. It was the making of them.'"

Gates met the 10,000-Hour Rule when he gained access to a high school computer in 1968 at the age of 13, and spent 10,000 hours programming it.

Gladwell says, "It's not enough to ask what successful people are like. It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn't."

Balsillie was born in Seathforth, Ontario, Canada, population 2,000.

This tiny town is the birthplace of many famous people, including:
 * author John Melady Canadian
 * Richard Nesbitt (born 1955) current CEO of the Toronto Stock Exchange
* Howard Hillen Kerr (1900 - 1984) first principal of what was then Ryerson Polytechnical Institute
* Charlie Mason (1912 - 1971) NHL forward
* Colonel Anthony Van Egmond (1778 - 1838) first farmer in the Huron Tract, participant in Upper Canada Rebellion
* Cooney Weiland (1904 - 1985) NHL forward
* Boyd Devereaux - Professional hockey player, Toronto Marlies, American Hockey League
* Kathy Devereaux - Former hockey player in the NWHL with the Brampton Thunder
* Ian Doig - Professional Golfer, Canadian Professional Golf Tour
* Scott Driscoll - National Hockey League Linesman,
* Arden Eddie - (born 1947) former Iron Man participant, team owner and manager in the Intercounty Baseball League
* Lloyd Eisler - Former Professional Canadian figure skating star
* Mike Kelly - Professional hockey Play-by-Play Broadcaster, Springfield Falcons, American Hockey League
* Dave McLlwain - Professional hockey player, Kölner Haie ("Cologne Sharks")
* Pat Murray - Former Professional former NHL hockey player
* Rem Murray - Professional hockey player, for HC TWK Innsbruck in the Austrian Hockey League
* Derek Nesbitt - Professional hockey player, San Antonio Rampage, American Hockey League
* Cal O'Reilly - Professional hockey player, Milwaukee Admirals, American Hockey League
* Mike Watt - Former Professional NHL hockey player

That's a crazily high number of professional athletes, especially hockey players.

Balsillie calls Peterborough, Ontario, his hometown. Peterborough is well known for its junior level hockey team, the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League.

The 'Petes' have become the longest continuously operating team in the league. They have participated in the Memorial Cup tournament nine times in their history and won it once.

The Petes have produced a record number of National Hockey League (NHL) players, including Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Mike Fisher, Cory Stillman, Chris Pronger, Steve Yzerman, Bob Gainey, Mike Ricci, Larry Murphy, and Tie Domi, and coaches such as Scotty Bowman, Roger Neilson, Mike Keenan, Gary Green and Dick Todd.

The Petes have also graduated 96 players who have played 100 or more games in the NHL. The goalie Pete Peters once played for the Peterborough Petes.

Corey Perry, one of the big stars with the Anaheim Ducks, was born in Peterborough.

After high school in Peterborough, Balsillie went to the University of Toronto. At Trinity College, he met Gladwell and lots of the sons and daughters of the people he read about in a book called The Canadian Establishment.

After the U of T, he went to Harvard for an MBA. From the Harvard School of Business, he worked as a chartered accountant at investment banks in Boston and New York.

When he returned to Canada in 1989, he took a job with a little contracting company in Kitchener, Ontario.

He was impressed with one of its suppliers, a company developing computer software for portable communication devices.

Balsillie became the co-Ceo of the company, called Research in Motion. RIM introduced the BlackBerry a few years later, setting Balsillie on a path to Forbes magazine’s list of billionaires.

The BlackBerry is so popular, it has been nicknamed the "CrackBerry."

Balsillie grew up with a love of hockey and never lost it. He spent a lot of time working on deals to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins and then the Nashville Predators. Now he is working on a bid to rescue the Phoenix Coyotes.

If you add up all the hours Balsillie has spent on buying an NHL franchise, it would probably add up to ten thousand hours, soon.


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