The opinions fly fast and furious...Steve Simmons from The Toronto Sun:
Balsillie's not so wily
By STEVE SIMMONS THE TORONTO SUN Last Updated: 6th May 2009, 6:11am
Jim Balsillie is well on his way to becoming the dumbest, most stubborn, successful entrepreneur around.
How else to explain his latest hockey outburst -- his clumsy, all-too-public attempt to bully the National Hockey League into allowing him to purchase the now-bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes franchise and move it to southern Ontario.
If all he is attempting here is to find his name in the headlines, he is certainly accomplishing that.
But if he honestly believes he can pull an end-run on commissioner Gary Bettman, secure an NHL franchise, move it, and use a public website to drum up support for a seventh Canadian franchise, then he is either getting terrible advice or he is simply fond of banging his head against the wall. Because that's all he can accomplish here.
This is a war he may not be able to win.
Even if he's willing to overpay for the moribund Coyotes, which he is.
Even if he's wanting to put another franchise in southern Ontario, which makes too much sense, the NHL doesn't work this way. You have to have finesse to get into this club. You have to be subtle.
Balsillie, the Research In Motion boss, can't seem to operate that way.
He doesn't just want entrance into this exclusive club. He wants to bash down the doors.
He tried to get the Pittsburgh Penguins with a rather bullheaded approach. Then he went a step further by attempting to purchase and move the Nashville Predators to Hamilton, going so far as to put season tickets up for sale, much to the chagrin of the NHL head office.
Now comes this very public stance on Phoenix.
But understand this: The Phoenix franchise, once the Winnipeg Jets, is all but dead. The league has tried to find an owner for months and hasn't gotten close. There is next to no fan base in Phoenix, small ticket revenue number, and a lease that is no help at all.
Coyotes CEO Jerry Moyes says he has done everything he can to keep the franchise in Phoenix afloat. Yesterday, he applied for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The NHL was unaware this was coming, unaware that Balsillie was waiting in the wings.
In some people's words, the league was ambushed yesterday, by both the Coyotes and by Balsillie's overt offer of $212.5 million US for a franchise some people wouldn't pay a dime for.
And this is where it gets a little messy. The league will say it has control over the franchise and any possible movement. They will say that, knowing also there is a long-term lease in Phoenix.
But what Moyes and Balsillie are banking on here is direction from the bankruptcy court: Once the court orders the Coyotes to accept the Balsillie offer, which is entirely possible considering there is unlikely to be another offer anywhere close, then Balsillie will pick up the franchise and attempt to move it, likely to Hamilton, with the NHL fighting it all the way.
This, almost certainly, will go to court, the way Al Davis had to go to court when he moved the Oakland Raiders to Los Angeles in the National Football League many years ago. Davis won his lawsuit against the NFL.
Balsillie is gambling he can win here.
Does a second NHL team in southern Ontario make sense? Yes.
Does Balsillie have the wherewithall to operate this team? Yes.
Is it in the NHL's best interest to have another team around Toronto? Yes.
But the reality is, the number of owners who have attempted to ambush the NHL and succeeded is zero.