Thursday, October 01, 2009

Jim Balsillie's loss was expected and deserved

No one should be surprised by Jim Balsillie's failed attempt to acquire the Phoenix Coyotes. He went about it the wrong way from day one. He liked to characterize the NHL as conspiring to keep him from purchasing a team to move to Hamilton. But really it has been Balsillie who has been conspiring to undermine the league rules.

Balsillie could have spent the past 3 years shmoozing the league owners and executives. Afterall, you need 20 or so Governors on your side to purchase a team. Or he could have positioned himself to be first in line for an expansion team. All he had to do was prove that he was a great guy, with lots of money and a love for hockey that was willing to play by the rules. He did the opposite. He has developed so much animosity that there is no chance that he will ever get a team now.

Craig Leipold, the previous owner of the Predators at one point was willing to sell Balsillie his team. Now the owner of the Minnesota Wild, Leipold was testifying as part of the high-proļ¬le bankruptcy proceedings of the Phoenix Coyotes, recalling the six months of fractured negotiations in 2007 when he’d tried to sell the Predators to Balsillie. For two years, Leipold had kept his feelings about the Canadian billionaire largely to himself. Now, he is ready to be first in line to tar and feather Balsillie. Leipold isn't alone. This is not Gary Bettman conspiring to keep the NHL out of Canada. Balsillie made himself an NHL pariah.

In the end, Judge Baum had no choice. He gave Balsillie every opportunity to make peace with the league. Instead he continued to antagonize the owners who he needed on his side to purchase a team. The Judge understood that it would be too disruptive to force Balsillie on the league. After all, this was not just a bankrupt company looking for a white knight. This was a sports franchise that is part of a network of 30 franchises that must cooperate with each other