All through the NHL houses, visions of Sundin and Rolston and Campbell are dancing through many GM’s heads and here I am ready to tip over the tree, set it on fire and set to pee on the train set because the engineer is a real creep.
No, seriously – this guy needs to get thrown out of office, and fast.
You’re probably wondering where my analysis of which free agents are going where and why I think they’re going to these places. That’s all well and good, but I know just about as much as every other yokel on the internet who writes about hockey.
OK maybe I know more than that guy, but that’s not saying much at all. After all, I’m convinced he comes up with his super-secret rumors and sources by using one of these.
That’s all besides the point here. Back when I started this silly enterprise last year, the hot story that I jumped on was that of the yellow-journalism PR machine victim Jim Balsillie. At the time, all we knew about this guy was that he once wanted the Penguins, but he dared to say that he would think about moving them closer to his Research In Motion home of Hamilton, Ontario. Then he stepped up with an asinine bid for the Nashville Predators, something I said the NHL and the Board of Governors would be crazy to not approve.
After all, Balsillie is a Canadian awash in money as the inventor of the greatest technological marvel this side of the iPod and all he wants to do is bring even more hockey home to Canada…and isn’t afraid to tell everyone and their family about how he wants to do it. Balsillie’s problem, however, is that he was too brash. He was too obvious about his plans for the Predators and his wont to move them to Hamilton, even going so far as to start taking advance season ticket sales at the Copps Coliseum for the eventual Hamilton Predators. After all, how was the NHL going to turn down that much money for what for all intents and purposes is a loser franchise?
Easy. He wants to move them to Canada and he wants to be very hands on with the operation which goes against most of the current NHL “standards” of operating a team like an absentee landlord. The NHL and Balsillie were being tempted by the people in Kansas City offering up a brand new mega-super-amenity-filled arena and 18,000+ seats to fill, an avenue I’ve no doubt Bettman is keeping in his back pocket for another loser team. Balsillie resisted and started figuring out what he could do about building a new facility in Hamilton, how long it would take, what the costs would be – all of it.
This kind of forward thinking and action is something that upsets the NHL Suits, especially Bettman – a man best known for his ability to hold a grudge and to be petulant at the drop of a hat. He didn’t appreciate Balsillie or anything that he was doing all without the go-ahead from the Board of Governors or himself. He claimed there were issues with Balsillie’s bid and that they were “skeptical” of Balsillie’s plans for the team. Talk about foolish.
It’s foolish considering Balsillie couldn’t hold back from tipping his hand about what he wanted to do. Foolish in that the league and the other owners would ultimately turn down that much money from a legitimate source all because he wants to rain on Herr Bettman’s Sun Belt U.S.A. Road Show. Remember that?
Turns out that the Board and Herr Bettman are still hanging on to that dream. Why? Because they trusted that a guy with no money. Oh sure, he claimed to be worth multiple millions of dollars and was even good enough to at one time have a stake in the San Jose Sharks as well but the problem is, he claimed a team that loses money annually and partakes heavily in the NHL Revenue Sharing to help stay afloat was his top asset.
If there’s anything that will attract the attention of the IRS and the FBI, it’s claiming something in the red as your top earning point. In fact, one could argue that perhaps Boots Del Biaggio thought he was escaping to a different country by moving from California to Tennessee. How else can you explain this:
Del Biaggio lists $88.43 million due to creditors, including $10 million to former Preds owner Craig Leipold, according to a summary of his assets and liabilities filed in federal bankruptcy court in Northern California on Monday. He lists $53.9 million in assets, including $12.1 million in real property, all in California.
He still owes money to the guy he bought his stake in the team from, he’s filed for bankruptcy and the Feds are still snooping around on him.
All of that and he is still a better option for Bettman and Co. Why? Because Boots guaranteed the team would stay in the good ole U.S. of A! Whether it was in Nashville, if the lease thing came apart, or in Kansas City or Las Vegas or wherever else – Del Biaggio getting a piece of the action meant the team was staying put because Del Biaggio made sure to make that the case.
What’s all the more concerning with this situation is the fact that two very close Bettman confidantes floated Boots big-time loans. Kings owner Phillip Anschutz and Wild owner Craig Leipold, the same guy Boots bought his stake in the Predators from, floated Del Biaggio a $17 million loan to help him buy his stake in the Predators.
I repeat the important part of this story and cannot stress this enough:
“Anschutz and Leipold are on Gary’s executive committee,” says one
high-ranking NHL source. “These are guys who are at the power centre of the
league, close to Gary, and supposed to be his best allies. And here they were
lending Del Biaggio money, and not telling Gary, at a time when they were
supposed to be reviewing his offer to become an owner.
Take what you will that this comes from the ever-mistifying anonymous source, but my cynicism lends me to believe it. Take that for what it’s worth.
What’s the cake topper of all of this, the part that screams to me that Gary is the most crooked and spiteful of all. No, its not his good friends helping bail out a broke scam artist. No, it’s not Gary looking the other way and then pretending he knew nothing of what was going on. It’s none of that.
Del Biaggio attempted to sell his 27% stake in the Predators to none other than Jim Balsillie and it was SHOT DOWN BY THE LEAGUE.
Read and be amazed:
According to sources familiar with the events, a tentative deal was
arranged that would have seen Mr. Del Biaggio’s combined one-third minority
interest, with an estimated book value of US$30-million, transferred to Mr.
Balsillie for a “significant premium.”
Apparently, the talks held at a San Francisco hotel did not directly
address the possibility of relocating the team, which was sold last year for
US$193-million to a Nashville-based local group of investors, led by David
However when an advisor to Mr. Del Biaggio, who was brought in to bid
against Mr. Balsillie for the Predators last year, informed NHL Commissioner
Gary Bettman of the discussions, sources say the 40-year-old investor was
discouraged from proceeding with a deal. Mr. Del Biaggio and officials at the
NHL were not available for comment yesterday.
Gary and the Board of Governors are so terrified of Jim Balsillie, his money and his ideas that even owning a quarter-share of a team is too frightening to them. Sure, the league PR folks are saying the right things, like no one was discouraged from doing anything but given how Gary and the League Of Extraordinary Geezers works, we know this is not the case.
The sum of all this is that Gary desperately wants to hang on to his dream – a dream of having popular, solvent markets in non-traditional hockey areas. To this degree, there’s been success in San Jose, Anaheim and Tampa Bay. The flipside of this is that the teams that are struggling are doing so in terrible ways. Florida, Atlanta, Phoenix and Nashville are bleeding money like crazy and can’t sell out their games with any regularity. You know who does do this?
I’m not all for a Canadian revolution in the NHL, but the pillaging that went down in the 90s because Quebec City can’t get its head out of its ass, even to this day, and because Winnipeg wasn’t winning enough was shameful. That coupled with the move of the North Stars and Whalers was a gut-shot this league hasn’t really recovered from from a credibility and novelty standpoint.
I’m also not saying move ’em all back to Canada either. What I am saying is, however, that if you’ve got a guy swimming in money, actual real money that can be verified by banks and the government, and maybe… just maybe he might want to take a team back to Canada, perhaps taking him up on the offer might not be a bad idea.
This crazy billionaire and his track record of huge success might be a drastic change to all these failed losers on the Board of Governors, but an upstart guy like this that wants desperately to win and be at the helm of a dominating Canadian hockey franchise can’t be bad for the game.