Those who read below may think I am anti-moving Phoenix to Eastern Canada. That is not necessarily so.
I believe in two things: 1) Growing the sport of Hockey; and 2) from my military background, order and discipline equals success more often than not. I also believe in fairness, so I know some good hard questions help you make a proper choice and I am not yet 100% sold on a personal stance in this matter.
I think the Pro's are:
1. Canada is a proven market for the game and Phoenix is in financial distress, so moving the team to Canada makes better business sense in terms of getting butts in seats, the game on TV/cable/satellite, and producing a money-making franchise.
2. The kind of money Mr. Balsillie is offering goes a long way toward solving issues with paying back Phoenix's creditors.
The Con's are:
1. Mr. Balsillie is an outsider, Bill Gates-type personality. I am a Microsoft fan because I think they have great products. But many think Bill Gates, the biggest software insider, is a bully who finds new pieces to his software empire in small tech companies and buys them out to assimilate their parts into his whole. Mr. Balsillie is an NHL management outsider who is attempting to circumvent the system, buy himself a team, and by default become an insider. Both Mr. Gates and Mr. Balsillie are passionate about that which they seek and are either good for their overall sector, or could potentially be good for it. But there are procedures to follow with respect to the NHL and Mr. Balsillie is not following them.
2. As we know from the Lockout days and other incidents in the NHL's history, the League is most healthy when management, owners and players all work in concert. A maverick buying his way in with discontent, not just disagreement, from all three of those entities is not good for the League's overall health.
That said up front, I have a question for Mr. Balsillie I have not heard asked yet which would sway my personal feelings in this matter.
If you are as intent on securing a franchise in Canada as you say, how come your name is not seriously mentioned in the potential sale of the Montreal Canadiens?
I'm just asking. Because if the answer is that he is just not interested in purchasing that successful team, then it looks like his sole purpose for buying Phoenix is to get his team, his way, and move it where he wants to. The only places that works are when you are either starting your own business, or you are the top dog on the food chain of a particular business sector. If he is not equally interested in the Canadiens, then I would have to say I am completely against his actions like it appears Mr. Bettman is because he is trying to do something he wants to do his own way, something unhealthy for Hockey. And at a time when Hockey is on the rise in popularity, this could sour potential, new fans on our sport.
If the answer on the other hand is simply that such a purchase is not in his own financial best interests for some reason, then, with some compromise, there might just be room for Mr. Balsillie in the NHL. The compromise has to come on at least two levels:
1. Don't attempt to bully the NHL into letting you in. If I had a bazillion dollars, I'd want to own a team myself. But I am sure the best route is to declare your intentions and work with the League to secure one because you are going to have to work with the League and all 29 other ownership groups to be successful. Web sites to incite eastern Canada against the League offices, and attempts to storm the courts to force your way in endears you to nobody.
2. If my goal is to grow the sport of Hockey, then I would want to find the best place to put a team in the United States. No offense intended, Canada, but there is not much more growth you can achieve except by population explosion - the vast majority of your nation considers Hockey a religion. The United States is ripe for harvesting, however. For example, the fact that you can see youth programs and high school Hockey now being played all over the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex 16 years after the Stars moved south attests to growth of our favorite sport. That is a population area of millions who, prior to the Stars, only had Dallas and Ft. Worth minor league teams. Any kind of youth program was the very biggest of exceptions to the rule.
Putting those two tactics to use might just land you a team, Sir, and bring one of the most financially viable candidates to own a franchise into the League. I fear not doing so will see you 0-3 against the League and likely never secure the other 29 owner's simultaneous support.
So Mr. Balsillie, is it that you just want it your way, on your terms and where you want it?
If the answer to the above is "Yes!" Burger King is down the street and always lets you have it your way. We will see you in the ticket line like the rest of us because that is how you are going to get into a building.
And if compromise is indeed on your mind, I would offer that the League needs to give you due consideration.
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