Friday, June 22, 2007

Hold your breath: Leipold asks NHL stop considering the sale

So I am not sure if we should hit the panic button yet, but some newspapers reported that Leipold has requested the NHL to stop considering the Predator's sale until a binding agreement is reached. Looks like the NHL has things ass-backwards--Bettman already made this comment after the Board of Governor's meeting on Wednesday, and so Leipold's request is moot. Was Leipold headlocked by Bettman last Wednesday into submission?

Some papers pitched the issue as 'the deal has been rejected' or 'Leipold no longer wants to sell to Balsillie', but here are Leipold's exact words:

"We did send the NHL a letter today requesting that it not do any further due diligence on Jim Balsillie's offer for the Nashville Predators until we reach a binding agreement... If Jim is interested in reaching a binding agreement, we are prepared to move forward." (from

This latest development can be interpreted in two ways: (1) they are trying to scare Balsillie away from the deal, in the same way they scared him away from purchasing the Penguins; or (2) they want things done properly and by the book to ensure the few Nashville fans don't 'come out fighting' as them southerners are prone to do.

The only question that remains is why? Why should Leipold care where Balsillie moves the team? Why is the NHL doing everything in its power to keep a team out of Hamilton? These developments are nothing short of insulting to Hamiltonians and the rest of Canada.

I am starting to get depressed.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Online Petition

It looks like more politicians are stepping up and helping out with this NHL movement--Judy Marsales, MPP, has organized an online poll and is providing window signs. I doubt an online petition will serve as a 'deal-maker' for Hamilton, but it surely wouldn't hurt. Go to for more information.

I also pointed out that two of the three logos on their website are poorly drawn replicas (discussed here). Ah well, at least Hamilton's NHL history is being recognized.

Ball's in Balsillie's Court

After the board of governor's meeting New York yesterday, it was clear that Commissioner Bettman does not want any public discussion on the possible purchase and relocation of the Predators. He forced a gag-order on the owners, who one-by-one pleasantly said 'no comment' to the media.

The only interesting tidbit of information I could extract from today's articles is that the NHL will not consider Balsillie's incomplete application. Although we do not have the details about what was not completed, Bettman suggested that a binding agreement between Basillie and Leipold is required. Balsillie's game plan was to avoid a binding agreement unless he receives assurances that he can relocate the team, a request that was rejected by the NHL. It was obvious when viewing a video of Bettman's press conference that he had a rather smug look on his face, providing the odd smirk every time he explained Balsillie's 'shortcomings'.

All these supposed 'rules' Bettman cites are really just arbitrary policies that can be changed. You can bet that if Balsillie was Bruckheimer, and Hamilton was Las Vegas, the sale and possibly the relocation plans would have already been signed and sealed.

To summarize, according to Bettman, there are three things that need to happen: (1) Balsillie submits a complete application, by complete he means a 'binding agreement'; (2) NHL will make a decision on the sale based on the complete application; (3) only after the sale is complete will they consider any relocation plans. Since Balsillie wanted assurances for step 3, it will be interesting to see how he responds. The ball is now in Balsillie's court.

Aside: In the world of the NHL, where we really do not know what happens behind closed doors, plans may already be in place for the sale and relocation to happen, and these comments (and gag-order) are just a way to temporarily appease the people in Nashville while papers get signed. Bettman confirmed he spoke with Balsillie as recently as last Monday--if only we had a wire tap.

An interesting note: The Toronto Maple Leafs sent FOUR delegates to this meeting: Richard Peddie (Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment CEO), Larry Tanenbaum (chairman), Dale Lastman (board member), and John Ferguson (general manager). Eight arms are better than two, I suppose, at strong-arming the other owners. The battle between 'the greater good and greed' continues.

For an interesting interpretation of yesterday's events, I recommend an article by Damien Cox in the Toronto Star.

The Great One Speaks: Thanks Gretzky!

The Great One spoke about the possible relocation of the Preds to Hamilton. Looks like the boy from Brantford is on our side, and that there is still some Canadian pride in this naturalized American. All we can say is thanks Wayne!

Here are some quotes from the Globe and Mail article...

"First, it's a great thing for [Balsillie],” Gretzky said. “Obviously, he's excited about it. If it actually works out that he gets to move the team to Hamilton is something that we'll have to follow over the next little while."

"On the other side of it, I feel very disappointed for the people of Nashville. But that's business, that's life. I will say this that if the team is allowed to move to that area [Hamilton], it will be tremendously successful."

"You're not just drawing from Hamilton, you're drawing from places like Brantford,” Gretzky said, chuckling at the mention of his hometown, “Burlington and Oakville. I'm not worried about the success for that franchise. I remember back in 1987, when we played the Canada Cup there. It was overwhelming."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Letter to Nashville Predator Fans

I commented on the Globe's website, responding to criticisms about our lack of empathy for Nashville Predator fans. Here is what I wrote...

To all Nashville Predator fans:

Excuse us Canadians (particularly Hamiltonians) if we are not sympathetic to your impending NHL loss. Yes, there are some Nashville fans who will be upset with spending their money on season tickets and merchandise, only to see their team move up north. But with a team that finished third overall with a fan base that barely cracked an average attendance of 14,000 and season ticket sales of less than 9,000 is quite simply pathetic. You have been coddled by the NHL, and are now acting like spoiled brats, wanting something you do not deserve.

If that does not explain our lack of sympathy, perhaps a history lesson on Hamilton's numerous disappointments will suffice. Since the 1970's, Hamiltonians have been subjected to at least seven relocation and two expansion opportunities. Each time, the citizens of Hamilton and Southern Ontario were elated and even provided proof of their support (e.g. built an arena, sold out season tickets in 2 days during the 1990 expansion bid), only to have their hopes crushed. Not only have we been used as leverage for other owners to get better deals in their city (e.g. Pocklington in Edmonton), our expansion bids by any objective measure were superior to others, only to lose out Southern American cities and less deserving bids. And I am just touching the surface here. For more details I recommend seeing

No one, not even Canadians up until now, cared much about these heartbreaking events. You had a gift that Hamiltonians could only dream of, and you (the collective you, including corporate sponsors) could care less. So please, excuse us for not shedding a tear.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Stephen Brunt: An exceptional sports journalist

One of my favourite sports journalists over the past few weeks has been Stephen Brunt for his candid exposé of the NHL and its dealings with Canada and Hamilton. I just finished reading another excellent article of his in the Globe and Mail on the veracity of Bettman's supposed 'commitment to Canada and it's game' (I suggest you take the time to read it). The basic premise is that over the years Bettman has gone on record saying "we must work to strengthen the game from its smallest grassroots to its mightiest franchise". Brunt simply calls him on this, and believes his dealings with Balsillie will demonstrate his true intentions. Actions do speak louder than words.

Just last week, Brunt also gave us a one-liner that epitomizes Hamilton's territorial rights situation: "it's the greater good versus greed". If you have time, send Stephen an e-mail thanking him for educating people on these matters (or thank him indirectly by buying his book).

Friday, June 15, 2007

Hamilton Radio Stations Organizing NHL Rally on Monday June 18

Here's a posting from AM900 CHML

Rally to support NHL team set to go
Posted Jun, 15 2007 - 11:50 AM
HAMILTON (AM900 CHML) - So, you've got your advance seasons tickets, now what?

AM 900 CHML and sister stations Y108 and Country 95.3 are holding a pep rally Monday morning.

It will be broadcast live on the morning show of all 3 stations.

When you show up at our parking lot at 875 Main Street West, we'll ask you to sign a petition of support for the team, that will be sent to the NHL.

- Jay McQueen

Show up to show your support!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

7,000 Season Tickets & 6.25 Million Dollars in Less than 10 Hours--Wow

Upon hearing about the season ticket sales in Hamilton I thought it might be a good idea to gauge the differences between Hamilton and Nashville in terms of NHL interest by looking at social networks on the internet (Facebook Groups) and season ticket sales. The methods are not sound, but they provide a glimpse of the quick and virtually unsolicited support from Southern Ontario hockey fans. There are no official campaigns in Hamilton, nor huge push from the local government, but in a matter of days, there are almost as many people supporting a move to Hamilton as there are people want the Predators to stay. But of course, it is easy to sign a petition, but such 'commitments' do not put money in the owner’s pocket.

A more objective measure of true interest is in the number of season ticket sales. Nashville had a team for 9 years, has probably had multiple ‘season ticket drives’, but with such a talented team they currently have fewer than 9,000 season ticket holders. Hamilton on the other hand was not given any warning apart from an advertisement in today’s local newspaper and a few rumours flying over the internet last night that season tickets deposits were available starting today. In a matter of 10 hours, fans of the NHL in Hamilton dropped 6.25 million dollars and nearly caught up to the number of season ticket holders in Nashville (our 7,000 to their <9,000).

Even if Nashville fans smarten up and buy more season tickets, it should be interpreted as a knee-jerk response that says nothing about their long-term commitment to the franchise. If fans were devoted to this team, Leipold [current owner] would not have lost money every year he owned the Preds, nor would he have sucked money from other NHL teams.

Hamilton's numbers are quite impressive considering a lack of fan mobilization or identity. Now imagine if Hamilton did have a team--this impassioned interest should have any owner seeing green.

Social Networks
Results as of June 15, 2007

Bring the Preds to Hamilton Groups (no team yet)
19 Groups: 3,791 members

Keep the Preds in Nashville Groups (team established 9 years ago)
7 Groups: 4,182 members

Honourable mention:

If the Predators come to Hamilton, we will support them (936 members)

The Hamilton “Predators” – The NHL in Hamilton! (1,018 members)

Bring the Predators to Hamilton!!! (1,055 members)

Running Tally of Ticket Sales

Hamilton, Ontario
As of 8:42pm, June 14, 2007 (Canadian Press)
After 10hours, 42 minutes

4,700 Lower Bowl ($4,700,000)
2,500 Upper Bowl ($1,250,000)
60 Suites ($300,000)

TOTAL: 7,260 ($6,250,000)

Nashville, Tennessee
As of 9:28pm, June 14, 2007 (Shoalts, Globe & Mail)
After 9 years


You be the judge of where a team belongs.

Get Your Tickets!

So here we are. It has been 17 years since season tickets for an NHL team in Hamilton has gone on sale without actually having a team, and now we have an opportunity to do it all over again. As disappointing as that 1990 outcome was, I suggest we provide the NHL another whopping statement that despite their bullying over the years, we are still a hockey-mad city. Last time it took us 24 hours to sell out, I wonder if we can match that today.

Tickets are now on sale! I bought mine, did you buy yours? Click on the image to get a taste of things to come (hopefully).


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Predators to Hamilton Tigers

Just thought I would put this image out there to start thinking about jersey designs. This simple version takes the Predators design and replaces their logo with the Hamilton Tigers logo c. 1925. Maybe it's just me, but doesn't this jersey look brilliant? The only other change is to replace the predators logo on the shoulder with the Tigers face.

You probably think I'm getting ahead of myself, and you are probably right. I figure we might as well enjoy this while we can (assuming this may be another dead end for Hamilton).

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Finally, a Government Investigation on NHL Territorial Rights

The timing could not be any better. Reports from the National Post tell us that Canada’s Competition Bureau (CCB) is looking into the legality of the NHL’s policies surrounding territorial rights. The most important point from Tedesco’s article (though I suggest you read it) is that the NHL policies conflict with the Canada Competition Act, which regulates companies from monopolizing markets. Last year, the CCB dropped their investigation after meeting with the NHL, who said that franchise relocation no longer requires a unanimous decision from the board, but a majority. A new investigation launched last month is now looking into a clause that allows clubs (e.g. Toronto and Buffalo) to veto any decision from the board. It is this veto power that opposes the Canada Competition Act, and nullifies the ‘majority rules’ decision that was added to appease the Bureau.

Whatever happened to a free market? Imagine a city that allows established businesses to veto other businesses from setting up shop on the other side of town so that everyone in the region has to travel and shop there for the product. That is essentially what Balsillie faces in moving the Predators to Hamilton. This situation is unethical, and highlights how the NHL has been allowed to operate like an oligarchy. Whatever happened to the days where sports teams were viewed as ‘clubs’, emerging from the collective support of fans, instead of franchises, where fans are viewed more as a means of generating income, or as a statistics for getting lucrative television deals? As Hamiltonians, and more generally as Canadians, we need to be more vocal about this issue if we ever want to reclaim hockey as our national sport.

We can only hope that the combined effort of Balsillie and Canada’s Competition Bureau will not only confirm that Hamilton’s NHL dreams have been hampered by greedy owners and ‘old boys club’ camaraderie (if you don't believe me, read this), but will set the stage for an NHL club representing Hamiltonians and others from the Golden Horseshoe.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Golden Horseshoe Tigers [or Predators]; Balsillie Hamilton's New Patron; and a Faux Pas?

Most of you already know that Balsillie is working with the City of Hamilton to get exclusive NHL rights to Copps Coliseum(1). Though I am not doing backflips just yet, this latest development has some interesting implications.

Golden Horseshoe Tigers?
Balsillie is operating a group called 'Golden Horseshoe Sports and Entertainment Inc' (GHSE). I simply love it. Not only does it smack MLSE in the face, but it might foreshadow his vision for another team in Southern Ontario. I now have a feeling that he will market the team as the 'Golden Horseshoe [Predators, Tigers, Loyalists, or whatever]'. This gives him some leeway for possibly keeping the team in Hamilton while he builds a new one in Cambridge. As much as my preference is for GHSE to bring back the Tigers, I would be happy with the 'Golden Horseshoe Tigers', and would live with anything else he called it, as long as the team is based in Hamilton.

Jim Balsillie: Hamilton's New Thomas McQuesten?
There are few people in Hamilton's history that made significant changes to our image, economy, and landscape (e.g. Thomas McQuestion brought McMaster University to Hamilton and supported the Royal Botanical Gardens). It looks like the deal for rights to Copps Coliseum includes operating the other facilities owned by HECFI, which suggests a long term commitment to downtown Hamilton. If in a perfect world this deal works out, Balsillie may play an integral role in Hamilton's renaissance.

Cat out of the bag?
Did Mayor Eisenberger make a faux pas by telling the Hamilton Spectator that Balsillie intends on moving the Nashville Predators to Hamilton, or is it part of GHSE's scheme to reduce investor interest in Nashville? This is all very interesting, and will definitely lead to many sleepless nights as I try to make sense of it all.

1. Dreschel (May 31, 2007). Another shot at NHL team for Hamilton. The Hamilton Spectator.