It’s no secret that Research In Motion’s Jim Balsillie has wanted a team for quite some time now. Just ask fans in Pittsburgh, Nashville, or Arizona. On the other hand, it’s no secret that the Blackberry broker has repeatedly irritated the NHL commissioner’s office with his brazen business tactics in his attempts to acquire an NHL team. But for the first time, there might be light at the end of the tunnel for Balsillie—and the reason for hope is coming from the top.
“RIM is run by billionaire Jim Balsillie, who has been repeatedly rebuffed by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in his attempts to buy a team. RIM is paying over seven figures for its sponsorship. Turns out that Bettman, according to my source, has told Balsillie that if he behaves himself and doesn’t create any more spectacles or bad publicity for the league, he will eventually get a team.”
The sound you just heard was the entire city of Hamilton, Ontario erupting. Since he started trying to acquire an NHL team, he’s been open with the fact that he wants to bring another team to southern Ontario. Whether it was because the league was hesitant to have another team in Canada or because they were hesitant to bring Balsillie into the “Old Boys Club,” he’s been met with resistance at every turn. For the first time, there’s a clear (and public) route for the RIM head to get his wish.
In his article, Ozanian openly wonders if the Phoenix Coyotes will be the team made available. Fans will remember that it was Balsillie and former owner Jerry Moyes who worked out an agreement behind the NHL’s back when the Coyotes originally filed for bankruptcy. A judged ruled the sale was illegal—and the league has been trying to sell the team ever since.
Aside from the Coyotes, the Columbus Blue Jackets stated earlier in the year that they lost $25 million last season and expect to lose money again next season. Of course, another option that is always available for the league’s owners is to explore the possibility of expansion. While many fans and hockey pundits are against the idea, expansion is always an option for the simple fact that expansion fees bring in a windfall of money for all 30 teams. Sooner or later, it all comes back to money. In the short term, the owners should be able to deal with a relocation fee instead of the more lucrative expansion fee.
Before fans get ahead of themselves, the entire story is based upon Balsillie’s perspicacity for the term “behave.” Assuming he worked all of the angles because he desperately wanted a team, we’ll see if he can work this angle as well. Like a parent speaking to a child, Bettman has basically said, “be good and you’ll get what you want.” It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?
Only time will tell if Balsillie willing.