Thursday, June 21, 2007

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.

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