I think it's wonderful that Jim Balsillie has now set his sights on Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, because you can bet your ass they are the driving force behind keeping Balsillie out of the NHL.
Balsillie has requested a deposition from MLSE President Richard Peddie through the court proceedings in Phoenix. Under oath, he wants Peddie to answer some questions about territorial rights and motives.
Of course Peddie remains deathly quiet and the NHL rejects the request by claiming the Leafs and Peddie have had very little to do with any of this.
As much of a skunk that Gary Bettman has become, you know the Leafs are the background cheering him on to prevent a team from coming to Hamilton.
And make no mistake about it. This has very little to do with money, and just about everything to do with image from a Leaf standpoint.
A team in Hamilton will not affect the Leafs in any way monetarily. The ACC will still be full and the Leafs will still be the focus Hockey Night in Canada and they'll still sell just as many souvenirs. They will continue to be the area's heritage team and a lavish cash cow.
What the Leafs are most concerned with is this - they don't want a team in Hamilton
because they don't want the team in Hamilton to become better than they are. I'm convinced this is the over-riding factor. Forty two years of incompetence will do that to you.
The last thing the Leafs want is a team 30 miles down the road with a better players and better record than they have. The last thing they need is a team 30 miles down the road making the playoffs while they don't.
In a nutshell, the Leafs don't want a team in Hamilton because Leaf management has no balls.
They don't look at Jim Balsillie as a challenge; they look at him as a threat. They realize Basillie has a history of hiring good people and creating a successful business, and that scares the livin' shit out of them.
The last thing they want is for Jim Balsillie to come into the market and do within a couple of years, what they've failed to do in forty-plus years. It's all about ego.
The Leafs have nothing to worry about from a financial stand-point, five million people in the GTA guarantee enough fans for both teams and to think a team in Hamilton would cause a reduction in Leaf ticket prices is a farfetched fantasy.
The Leafs don't want a team in Hamilton for one reason and one reason only. They don't want a Hamilton team to win more than they do.
According to documents recently revealed surrounding the shit storm in Phoenix, the NHL claims that Argo owners Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon are among the groups who are interested in buying the Coyotes and keeping them in Arizona.
If that's true, I won't go to another Argo game as long as these guys own em'.
Of all the unpatriotic moves a couple of multi-millionaires could make this is it, and its got to cut right to the bone in Hamilton.
After all these years, just when Hamilton can taste an NHL team, it could be a couple of Argo guys who prevent it from happening. How cruel.
Although, to be honest, I've got to believe there's more to this story that meets the eye.
Sokolowski and Cynamon aren't stupid. They've made some brilliant business moves over the past decade that have vaulted them into money heaven, so I can't believe they actually want to buy the Coyotes, who are really a dog, and keep them in a city that doesn't care about them.
I've got the feeling that this might be Gary Bettman working behind scenes, continuing his personal battle with Jim Balsillie.
Maybe Bettman has already come to the conclusion that another team in Southern Ontario is a formality and something he won't be able to prevent, so rather than fight it, he's decided to arrange it, meaning if it's going to happen he at least wants a say in who will own the club.
It seems like the only logical explanation. The Argo guys appear to be way too smart to start throwing money at an NHL team in the desert, so they must have assurances that if they play the NHL's game and pretend they have every intention of keep the team in Phoenix, then eventually Bettman will give them the green light to move north.
Ultimately that may be bad for the Hamilton because word is the Argo guys favour a new arena at Downsview, but it will be great news for long suffering hockey fans who can't afford to get anywhere near the ACC for a Leaf game.
It's just another strange twist in a compelling story that should come to a head on Tuesday when a bankruptcy court in Phoenix decides which way this is going to go.
Personally, I hope Balsillie gets it. I love his style in dealing with the little twerp Bettman who given his own way, would never entertain the idea of another team coming to the GTA. Right now he seems to be cornered like a rat and his only way out is to save face is for him to choose the owner who will inevitably bring another team to Southern Ontario.
It all sucks and it all stinks and that's why I want Balsillie to win this battle and knock Bettman on his tight little ass.
I realize that referring to a billionaire who wants a hockey team as a great Canadian would be a stretch to some, but that's what Jim Balsillie is
He's a great Canadian with great big huge balls.
His aggressive attempt to win another NHL team for Southern Ontario is nothing short of remarkable. His willingness to spit in the eye of the little twerp who's running the league is a thing of beauty.
Make no mistake about it, over the long haul Jim Balsillie is in it for Jim Balsillie because if he's successful he'll realize a life long dream of being part of the NHL, but he's also doing it for all Canadians. He's taking the rest of us along for the ride and so far it's been a gas.
Let's face it, Gary Bettman can say all he wants but he wants no part of another NHL team in Canada and that's the bottom line to all of this.
You know it, I know it but most of all Jim Balsillie knows it so it's become a personal challenge that could eventually benefit us all. Balsillie has the wear withal to jump into the ring with Bettman and he's willing to do it regardless of the cost.
Balsillie knows the only way another hockey team will ever come to Canada is as he put it earlier this week "through the side door", so he's willing to do whatever it takes to conquer Bettman's ridiculous process of placing NHL teams in markets that not only can't support them, but markets that don't even want them.
Balsillie is a Canadian guy who's pissed at the process and after being rejected not once but twice by a league that seems hell bent on self destruction he's figured out a way to force the issue.
And it's that force that I love.
Some people argue that he's going about it the wrong way, but really, there is no other way. Bettman doesn't want Canada under any circumstances so Basillie has found a way to pick the lock and move towards exposing the obvious.
Another NHL team in Canada makes way more sense than going to ANY other market in the United States right now. Basillie knows this team will be a huge success and he knows if succeeds in bringing the Coyotes to Southern Ontario he'll make Bettman look like a bloody idiot.
And that's the flipside to this whole thing.
Bettman can yack about league rules and protocol and a bunch of other shit, but right now I think his biggest concern is ego. He wants to be the guy who made the NHL a big deal in the United States. But it aint' gonna happen, it's obvious, but Bettman won't admit it and the league is slowly sinking because of it.
If or when the Hamilton Whatevers become reality, they'll be such a smash hit the questions will have to fly.
Why did Bettman want to go into places like Kansas City and Portland when there was a huge market to tap in Canada? Why are their teams struggling in Phoenix and Columbus and Miami when there are people in Canada thirsting for NHL hockey?
Jim Basillie may be a radical when it comes to his methods, but in the end he could force the answers to all these questions and expose Bettman for what he is and in the process give Canada its seventh team.
I have always been vehemently opposed to taxpayer money being used to finance professional sport but this situation is different.
Word is that Jim Basillie, who put up a quarter billion dollars of his own money to buy the Phoenix Coyotes, would like the federal and provincial governments to provide the 130 million dollars needed to upgrade Copps Coliseum.
Believe me, if this was Toronto or Montreal or Vancouver I'd be dead against it. I wouldn't like it if it were Edmonton, Calgary or Winnipeg either.
Why should taxpayers pay for what amounts to the factory for a multi-million dollar business - especially a place for grown men to play a kids game at exorbitant amounts of money.
But again, this situation is different. This is Hamilton and if any city in Canada deserves a break, it's Steeltown, a struggling city with fabulous people that's in the midst of an industrial revolution. As the steel industry dies in Hamilton, this feisty little city is scrambling to re-invent itself and re-furbishing Copps to NHL standards is something that would help immensely.
Yes, Jim Balsillie is a billionaire and he could probably afford to re-furbish Copps himself, but he's already done his part by swooping in and grabbing a team in a league that otherwise wouldn't dream of coming to Hamilton.
A re-furbished Copps Coliseum, with at least 41 NHL dates a year would do wonders for downtown Hamilton.
Up until now, Copps has been somewhat of a lame duck because although it was built with the NHL in mind, it got screwed over time and time again and there's never been a consistent bona fide attraction operating out of the building.
An NHL team would be different. It would give the city a new attitude and I'm sure restaurants, bars and condos would be soon to follow.
In a lot of cases, most cases in fact, tax money being thrown at pro sports is a bad deal for the taxpayer, but in Hamilton it would be a clear cut investment. But most of all, it would be a reward for the great people of Hamilton, hard working and proud people who've played second fiddle to Toronto and the surrounding area far too long.
They've been slapped around by the NHL far too many times as well, so if Balsillie manages to pull this off and actually win control of the Coyotes it's the least we could do for the Hammer.
Talk about timing. On a day when NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made it perfectly clear, once again, that he doesn't want another NHL franchise in Canada, Neighbour John calls me from Raliegh, North Carolina.
John is on a business trip and he was only an hour away from the site of tonights game between the Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins, so he swung by to see if he could get a ticket.
Of course he could. It's freakin' Raleigh, North Carolina for cryin' out loud. Another Bettman hockey hotbed where the fans could give two shits about the NHL.
Three hours before the game, Neighbour John walked up to the box office where there was no lineup, and he purchased a seat for 60 dollars. It's a decent seat , about half way up the stands, but that's not the point, the point is this - on a game night there was actually a ticket available for game three of a quarter-final series.
Can you imagine if this game was being played in Hamilton, or Kitchener-Waterloo or Vaughn? Do you think there would have been a ticket available three weeks ago let alone three hours ago? Do you think it would cost 60 lousy bucks?
The irony of it all.
On yet another day that Gary Bettman slaps all Canadians in the face with his indignant attitude towards our country, here's another example of how pathetic the imbalance is between Canada and some of the ridiculous markets in the U.S. that Bettman endorses.
Game three of a Stanley Cup quarter-final series in Raleigh, North Carolina will not be sold out tonight.
John says there were lots of tickets available, so even if you hear it was sold out, it will be bullshit - another attempt to make the NHL look healthier than it is.
If this game was being played in the GTA tonight it would be a completey different story. The game would be sold-out and packed with nothing but die-hard fans who love the game, appreciate the game and want the game.
* It's highly recommended to play this audio while reading the following item.
The most surprising thing about this past season for the Montreal Canadiens is that their so-call knowledgeable fans were fooled by it.
I don't want to keep beating a dead horse, but I told you way back last spring after the Habs were eliminated from the playoffs that this team was a dog. As you know I predicted they wouldn't make the playoffs this year, and although I was ultimately wrong, I wasn't too far off and in the end they played a measly four more games than the Maple Leafs this year.
I mention the Leafs because it's important. It's important because as I said from about February on, the Leafs are a better team than the Montreal Canadiens. Maybe not on paper, but definitely on the ice and next year the paper thing will probably change as well.
The Canadiens have very little cap space and ten unrestricted free-agents. That's a big problem and it will be played out this way.
I guarantee for at least the next five years the Toronto Maple Leafs will finish ahead of the Montreal Canadiens in the standings. Do you hear me? Do you comprehend Hab fans, the next five years.
But believe me, that's not saying a lot because the Habs are going to suck the big one.
Bob Gainey went into this 100th anniversary season with a strategy. Use a pile of free-agents who would be hungry as hell to earn new contracts. Often unrestricted free-agents have career years because they're playing for a pot of gold, unfortunately for the Habs, it didn't work out.
Because at the top of that list was Alex Kovalev. I hate to keep saying I told you so, but I did. I said on many occasions if Alex Kovalev is the face of your team, if he's your so-called go-to guy, then you're in huge trouble.
The rest is now history. I'm convinced that during the four game series against Boston Kovalev's main focus was starting his summer as quickly as he could.
As a Leaf fan I'd love the Habs to re-sign this guy, but they probably won't.
We keep hearing that Montreal's off-season focus will be Vincent Lecavalier which is odd when you think about it. With no cap space, to sign Lecavalier the Habs will have to say goodbye to several others, so what's the use of having Lecabalier when you have nothing else?
It's not a pretty situation in Montreal and the fans aren't happy about it, but their discontent will only be heightened next year and at least the next four after that while they're looking up at the Maple Leafs.
But Montreal fans shouldn't be too critical, because as shitty as their team will become, they're just as bad.
Fickle, fair weather and uneducated.
That was played out last night with the way they reacted to their 21 year old goaltender.
Like any Hab hater I was hoping / expecting a four game sweep, but in the back of my mind I thought that maybe the Habs would show up and do something once they returned to the friendly confines of "na na na ville"
But wow, this team is shittier than I thought they were and injuries absolutely cannot be used as an excuse. Injuries are part of the game, and if you listen to most blowhard Hab fans they're so great they could send the 1955 team out there and still win.
Which makes me think about the advertising on the end boards at the dumbBell Centre.
There's a big Viagra on one of the panels. I suggest before the next game they tie Alex Kovalev down and pump him full of the shit. I mean really, where's the passion?
In the third period you saw the real Kovalev. A half assed effort and he gave the puck away on more than one occassion. At this point all Kovalev wants is for the season to be over so he can get the hell out of town.
A swell guy.
And back to the Viagra for a second. They should give Saku Koivu a good dose as well. But based solely on age.
The way he ambles around the ice now I get the feeling his game ain't the only thing that's gone soft.
As I sit here in Peterborough and write this, the game between the Boston Bruins and Les Miserable isn't even over yet.
But that doesn't matter because it's a foregone conclusion after two periods. The Habs are no match for the Bruins on this night and probably won't be for the duration of the series.
It's too bad a playoff position was wasted on the Habs. Maybe the NHL should adopt a rule that says a team that sucks down the stretch can be replaced by another team for the post-season.
I mean really, even the Leafs would have given the Bruins a better fight.
If there's one thing that's positive from a Hab standpoint it's the play of Alex Kovalev. Or should I say the shot of Alex Kovalev. He's been his usual invisible self, but a couple of times he's popped out of his hole to put the biscuit in the basket and Les Skidmark need all the goals they can get.
Too bad Saku Koivu doesn't still play for the Habs........ Oh he does? I guess he went to the Mats Sundin school of playoff hockey.
Anyway, the whole bloody exercise is silly as shit. I wasted the better part of two hours watching a one sided hockey game tonight so finally I did what any true hockey fan would do; I changed the channel so I could watch a real hockey game featuring Canada's team, the Calgary Flames.
Hopefully the Habs will be dead by Wednesday, and if that happens it will be the first time in their history that they've gone a complete decade without winning a Stanley Cup.