Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Dangerous Precendent

There has been a lot of grumbling over Gary Bettman not being too keen to let Balsillie move the team to southern Ontario: the fans argument being, if the market can sustain it, then Bettman should shut the hell up and let the team move.

The issue is not Bettman being against another team in southern Ontario; not specifically. The issue is about control -- who dictates where the league has teams?

Sure, Phoenix has been a bit of a bust, and was never really a big hockey market. It was bigger than Winnipeg, that's for sure, but still not a huge success. So if Balsillie can move the team to a successful market, why would the league block it?

Because it sets a dangerous precedence. If owners can move the team willie-nilly, then how does the league protect its franchises, and its fan base? There are fans in Phoenix; they pack the stadium in the playoffs, and bring the "white out". So how can you justify the fact that there is no fan-base in Phoenix? The league thinks there is money to be made; why should they be told otherwise because one ownership group failed?

Older NHL fans might not give a flying crap about Phoenix as a hockey town, and I can feel that. But consider this; when the Pens were about to fold (before they got Crosby) it was Bateman who insisted the team stay in Pittsburgh. Same with Ottawa when Melnik took over. When Molson went to sell the Canadiens, to an American, it was Bettman who assured fans the franchise would never leave Montreal (remember, Molson was selling because they were losing money, and Gillett started making money.)

Balsillie is being a bully. He didn't get what he wanted on the first try, and is now using the leverage of Bankruptcy to force his hand. This is not about owning a hockey team, but about owning a hockey team in his backyard. Did Gillett demand the Habs move to Colorado? Did he want to move the soccer team to the MLS? No... so why should Balsillie have that luxury?

If Bettman caves, it shuffles the divisons, it ruins whatever potential market is in Phoenix, it limits the sport to existing markets as opposed to emerging markets, and it pretty much says: "Hey Ownership; move your team to where-ever the hell you want, never mind what's good for the league, what's good for our history, what's good for our sport." What's to stop a franchise from moving every 5 years?

Now folks can say "oh, that would never happen" -- but the point is once the league loses control, and only the 'money' makes the decision, anything can happen. Should the Islander's franchise move because the owner is a total moron?

I'm with Bettman on this. Basillie's tactics are underhanded and sneaky; and its not the way we want the NHL to determine who plays where. Bettman might be an idiot, but he's in charge. Give that up, and the League will be a damn clown show as franchises move at the scent of new money.

For the record, I would love to see another franchise in Canada. Just not this way.

1 comment:

  1. You make some good points sir! I had my 'drunken ass clown at the bar' hat on earlier and felt like ranting that we did not have a second team in S. Ontario.

    I love that Balsillie is trying, and maybe your right, he's not going about it in the best of fashions. Your right, there are some fans in Phoenix, not sure I would argue that there are enough to support an NHL team, but that's tough to say when the team is terrible.

    I really do not like Bettman, think he is to focused on expanding markets that may not be there. The commissioner's office does have to retain control though, like you pointed out.

    I do not like the idea of expansion, we have enough teams, do not need the talent pool further watered down. Do need to get another team up here though one way or another. Based on economics alone, to much revenue being missed out on.