And now a word about Jim Balsillie.
The NHL owners could sure use an enthusiastic owner. And the NHL could also use an owner with deep, deep pockets. There’s no doubt that Mr. Balsillie has many friends on both sides of the border. He knows and associates with the kind of people who could turn out to be the perspective buyers of other teams in the league. His business success brings a tremendous cache to the league and would generate an incredible amount of publicity.
That said, knocking down the door is not usually the way to become part of the family. Most suitors approach the father of the intended with care and caution. Those virtues don’t seem to exist in Mr. Basillie’s world.
I think the NHL would be wise to consider an alternative plan that preserves the Coyotes and also takes advantage of Mr. Balsillie’s assets to strengthen the league. And perhaps a plan that humbles him just a bit along the way.
Adding a second franchise in Southern Ontario is an issue that is not going to go away. 18 years ago, Hamilton and not Ottawa would have been the 24th team accepted into the NHL but the perspective owners (Tim Horton’s) wanted to spread the expansion fee over several years rather than delivering a check for the full amount.
Why not grant an expansion franchise to Southern Ontario? The league ultimately wants to get to 32 teams. If they go to 31 now, they can always go back to 30 if a franchise should ultimately fail. If all turns out well, 32 can be achieved easily in coming years. The NHL has never been shy about expanding and going past 30 teams might open the playoffs to include more teams.
The league could charge a hefty premium for the Southern Ontario territory and Mr. Balsillie would get a year or two to figure out his arena needs. The Maple Leafs and the Sabres would be indemnified for their territorial rights (thus reinforcing an important league tenet) as part of the deal and all teams in the league could split up a much needed expansion fee. The players union gets piece of mind that they forced an important isuse and 23 more major league jobs for their members. And yes, there is a more than ample talent pool to fill another NHL team.
Why expand when so many teams are struggling? Money would be a good place to start. It almost always is.