Criteria for buying an NHL team

Ryan Lambert
August 26 2009 01:02PM

balsillie_jim_getty_260

With all the craziness yesterday about the NHL formally submitting a bid for the Phoenix Coyotes, I found myself wondering what, exactly qualifies someone to submit a bid for an franchise.

As it happens, there are probably at least eight qualifications that the NHL uses to gauge whether or not you are qualified to own an NHL team. At least, that's at least as many as I figured out before I stopped caring.

1. Do you have the money?

It's the most important consideration, I bet, and I'd imagine that goes for any sports league. I remember back when the Red Sox were up for sale back in the first few years of this decade, and I think the current owners submitted a bid of over $700 million dollars, which was substantially more than the $2,200 I offered. I guess I get why this is an important factor, but, because the league has repeatedly told Jim Balsillie to take a hike despite his large bids, it can't be the only one.

2. Are you a good dude?

Remember, the NHL Board of Governors recently rejected Jim Balsillie's bid for the Coyotes, which is considerably greater than some of the other bids that have been kicked around over the last few months, on the grounds that he didn't seem like a nice person. Well, the term was that he lacked the "character and integrity" to own an NHL team. For real. He can't hang with regular nice guys like Charles Wang, who underreported TV ad revenues so he could pocket more money while keeping the team terrible. He can't hold a candle to a stand-up guy like Eugene Melnyk, whose company maybe could've bribed doctors to prescribe an experimental drug it was putting out (charges here in the US are pending) and also possibly defrauding insurance companies over the value of a truck that crashed by anywhere from 2.5-5 times its actual worth. Y'know, real gentlemen like that.

3. What is your status as a Canadian?

This is HUGE, and it's a yes/no question. I'm sure the application paperwork reads, "Are you Canadian?" Answering in the affirmative gets you sent straight to the reject pile no questions asked.

4. Are you willing to ignore geographical fact to make a point?

Sure, Phoenix has repeatedly shown that it has no interest whatever in attending hockey games, for any number of reasons. The most often-cited is that the Coyotes don't actually play in Phoenix, but rather Glendale, which is, they say, a bit out of the way for Phoenix residents. And if you've never been to Phoenix, then this might sound like a logical argument. But I have, and Glendale is very close to the city. Google Maps says it's just over 14 miles. BY HIGHWAY. This is like if the NHL cried over lack of attendance at Flames games because the rink was, by way of comparative distance and travel time, in Chestermere.

5. Would you like to lose boatloads of money for "the good of the game?"

Sure, the Coyotes are losing money by the bucketful and are unlikely to turn a profit any time in the next billion years thanks to a number of factors which boil down largely to crumminess of team and market. But how good of an owner you are depends largely upon how willing you are to live life on the red side of the ledger (are ledgers separated into sides? I don't know). If you'll suffer the indignity and financial burden of losing something like $40 million a season for forever, on top of your already-hefty bid, then you're an ideal candidate.

6. Did you possibly try to circumvent the NHL's rules for buying a team?

If the answer is only "maybe," then you're fine.

7. Are you and your bid a complete fraud?

No problem, buddy, come on in.

8. Did you invent the BlackBerry?

This is apparently very important. If you have high hopes that you'll land an NHL franchise, please do not be a person that invented a piece of technology that changed the way we think about cell phones. This is the kind of thing that makes an interviewer frown across his desk at you before sighing deeply and checking "No" on a single sheet of paper held to a clipboard.

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Yer ol' buddy Lambert is handsome and great and everyone loves him. Also you can visit his regular blog at The Two-Line Pass or follow him on Twitter. Lucky you!
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#1 Two things real quick… | The Two-Line Pass
August 26 2009, 01:16PM
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[...] then here’s a post I did just now for FlamesNation that, like all my other work everywhere on the internet, will be [...]

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#2 Vaclav
August 26 2009, 02:25PM
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Is there a current NHL GM that doesn't use a Blackberry as their method of communication?

Perhaps this is Balsillie's ace in the hole. Cut the power to everyone's Blackberry, cause mass confusion and panic followed by his immediate welcome into the league as it's newest owner.

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#3 Rice
August 26 2009, 02:28PM
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SO far the only issue with this article is that the Canadian comment isn't necessarily true because, I believe that Darryl Katz is a canuck and is now the proud owner of an NHL team. OTherwise everything seems in order here

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#4 Colin
August 26 2009, 02:29PM
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I don't see how the league can be allowed to bid on teams, that seems like shifty BS entirely pulled to give the finger to a guy they don't like.

Never mind the fact that Capt. Blackberry likely has more money than the NHL and theoretically could outbid them if he wanted it bad enough.

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#5 Pouzar
August 26 2009, 02:33PM
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Too many people seem to talk as if the NHL is a publicly traded company or something and therefore needs to be transparent. It's not and it does not have to be. The league is a private entertainment company run out of New York City and can either let in or exclude whomever they please. A big reason why the league is commiting to Glendale is because it got taxpayers to build an arena for them there. If they just walk out, it serves as a bad precedent to taxpayers in other markets when owners there want tax dollars for a new arena. Edmonton is certainly one of those marketplaces.

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#6 -30-
August 26 2009, 02:34PM
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And Daryl Katz was one of the NHL owners! It was unanimous when they voted not to accept Balsilie into the NHL.

Tell me there isn't something a little funny going on there? Is there a probationary period where Katz has to give the team back if he speaks up amongst the NHL owners that are sheep?

Baaaaaaaad boy Daryl

-30-

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#7 Pouzar
August 26 2009, 02:38PM
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@ -30-:

Katz is not going to support abandoning a market where taxpayers built a new arena when he wants taxpayers to do the same here.

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#8 Quicksilver ballet
August 26 2009, 02:40PM
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I think the NHL's only problem with Mr. Balsillie is that he wants to move an existing franchise into that major southern Ontario hockey market. The NHL was/is counting on significant expansion dollars to go into that hockey hotbed and by re-locating an existing franchise is effectively cutting that cost in half.

If he wanted to move the Coyotes to say Las Vegas....the NHL would have a very different additude towards Mr. Balsillie.

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#9 Cam
August 26 2009, 02:43PM
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Please remove pick of Ryan Smyth. Every time I read a TLP post I feel like weeping and it is a bad association to be forming.

AND... where was the NHL when the Winnipeg Jets moved there in the firsst place - did the NHL buy that team? Remember that this was the nineties and a team could be bought for 70M. The citizens of Wpg raised 15M - that could have helped the NHL. I wonder if they could raise 25 cents in Phoenix.

Bettman is a jerk who only cares about American hockey markets.

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#10 jeff
August 26 2009, 02:47PM
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@ Vaclav: That is a smart move. Never thought of that.

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#11 jeff
August 26 2009, 02:50PM
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@ -30-: Katz may have been in that vote, but the vote was 26-0 so he might not been in there.

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#12 The Menace
August 26 2009, 02:55PM
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Cam wrote:

Bettman is a jerk who only cares about American hockey markets.

That's really not very accurate. he may be a douche-bag, and he may have way too much focus on "growing" the US market, but he's the reason we still have teams in western Canada. Particularly in Edmonton.

Every night before I go to sleep I give my Little Gary Bettman doll (life-size) a little smooch, and thank him for saving the Oilers.

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#13 Ender the Dragon
August 26 2009, 02:56PM
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To this day I don't understand how the NHL can play the 'character' card in court. They go on and on about how the owners voted 26-0 against inviting Balsillie into their inner circle. Even assuming that the owners' opinion of the guy's character is at all relevant (and I'm not convinced it is), is there that much dirt on this guy's private and/or business life that it could make 26 supposedly rational and well-adjusted human-beings (stretching, I know) think to themselves "This guy is messed-up. This could affect me. Charles Wang is one thing, but this guy . . . I don't think I can run my team if this guy is referred to by anyone as an NHL owner."

What did Balsillie do? Was he convicted for eating children? Stealing money from old people? I mean, heck, Vick was convicted for killing dogs and they let him back in the NFL, arguably much more prestegious than our humble hockey league. Basillie's owning a team is that horrible for these men to contemplate?

Basillie didn't kiss Bettman's ass just right and so I get why Bettman is pissed-off. What I don't understand is why the owner of the Dallas Stars gives two squirts. Why does the owner of the Columbus Blue Jackets or the Florida Panthers care if Jim Balsillie or Randy 'Macho Man' Savage owns the Coyotes? Why do the owners continue to support a spectacle this ridiculous?

As far as Bettman goes, if he's got specific dirt on Balsillie he should share it. If not, he should shut up before he's rightfully sacked. I like what Bettman did for Edmonton years ago, but this blatently and seemingly unfounded personal attack is beyond all reason and professionalism.

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#14 Wanye Gretz
August 26 2009, 03:04PM
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-30- wrote:

And Daryl Katz was one of the NHL owners! It was unanimous when they voted not to accept Balsilie into the NHL. Tell me there isn’t something a little funny going on there? Is there a probationary period where Katz has to give the team back if he speaks up amongst the NHL owners that are sheep?

Now isn't THAT an intesting point. Hmm...

@ TLP:

Nice article. I remember when I bid on the Red Sox too, it didn't go well. Something about not accepting Subway Club Cards as downpayment on downpayments.

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#15 Wanye Gretz
August 26 2009, 03:06PM
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jeff wrote:

#10 jeff August 26 2009, 2:50 pm. Edit @ -30-: Katz may have been in that vote, but the vote was 26-0 so he might not been in there.

I bet when it came time for Katz to vote 'yes' or 'no' he voted 'ballin!' which was later accepted as a no.

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#16 Word
August 26 2009, 03:07PM
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-30- wrote:

And Daryl Katz was one of the NHL owners! It was unanimous when they voted not to accept Balsilie into the NHL. Tell me there isn’t something a little funny going on there? Is there a probationary period where Katz has to give the team back if he speaks up amongst the NHL owners that are sheep? Baaaaaaaad boy Daryl -30-

I think 2 people abstained and 1 was absent?

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#17 Ender the Dragon
August 26 2009, 03:08PM
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Cam wrote:

Please remove [pic]of Ryan Smyth. Every time I read a TLP post I feel like weeping and it is a bad association to be forming.

Seconded. That's a controversial banner to wave; why alienate any percentage of your readers before they've even formed an opinion of what you've written? I don't know why you as a Calgary fan feel the need to display him now as you do, but I just can't imagine Jason Gregor or Robin Brownlee similarly adopting a degrading photo of a hockey player as their avatar.

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#18 TLP
August 26 2009, 03:12PM
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because a) it's hilariously funny to me and b) this is at least in part a comedy website.

if you can't have a sense of humor about the team you support, and jesus christ i own an oleg saprykin third jersey!, then i don't know what to tell you

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#19 DonDon
August 26 2009, 03:20PM
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Pouzar wrote:

Too many people seem to talk as if the NHL is a publicly traded company or something and therefore needs to be transparent. It’s not and it does not have to be. The league is a private entertainment company run out of New York City and can either let in or exclude whomever they please. A big reason why the league is commiting to Glendale is because it got taxpayers to build an arena for them there. If they just walk out, it serves as a bad precedent to taxpayers in other markets when owners there want tax dollars for a new arena. Edmonton is certainly one of those marketplaces.

The NHL is not a publicly traded company or anything remotely close, however, it is vulnerable to antitrust legal action with their latest gambit. The only real value of the Coyotes' franchise is when it is moved. Don't know who the NHL expects will buy this total failure and keep it in Phoenix.

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#20 Ender the Dragon
August 26 2009, 03:28PM
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@ TLP:

It's 'funny' at the expense of an individual who is, by most accounts, a stand-up guy. He plays for Colorado now (in case you hadn't heard) and although he plays against Calgary once in awhile, I don't know why you'd want to single him out any more that Mike Boogaard or Ryan Kesler. At least Penner as an Oiler I could kind of understand (or Pronger; everyone hates Pronger) even though I'd still think it was a bit uncalled-for. But why the hell Smytty? What'd he do to you?

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#21 Wanye Gretz
August 26 2009, 03:31PM
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@ TLP:

Seconded. You are hilarious.

*sniffs tuft of TLP hair collected from trash can*

@ Ender the Dragon:

I think the Smyth reference is more a slap in the face to Edmontonians for bungling the treatment of our star and my favorite player in the past 5 years. TLP will one day hang for his treachery, but he is a cool dude.

*goes back to sniffing hair*

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#22 Ender the Dragon
August 26 2009, 03:34PM
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DonDon wrote:

Don’t know who the NHL expects will buy this total failure and keep it in Phoenix.

The NHL had no idea either. That's why they had to knuckle down and offer to buy it themselves. I bet they're cautiously thrilled that the 'Edge' offered to foot the bill for the next few years, but probably still too scared that the Edge might be an undercover front for Balsillie's organized crime syndicate to allow them to actually outbid the NHL.

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#23 Cam
August 26 2009, 03:34PM
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TLP wrote:

because a) it’s hilariously funny to me and b) this is at least in part a comedy website. if you can’t have a sense of humor about the team you support, and jesus christ i own an oleg saprykin third jersey!, then i don’t know what to tell you

I just want to quit weeping at work. It's embarrassing already.

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#24 Cam
August 26 2009, 03:37PM
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The Menace wrote:

That’s really not very accurate. he may be a douche-bag, and he may have way too much focus on “growing” the US market, but he’s the reason we still have teams in western Canada. Particularly in Edmonton. Every night before I go to sleep I give my Little Gary Bettman doll (life-size) a little smooch, and thank him for saving the Oilers.

He is? I thought that was due to the city of edmonton having a hook when they gave peter puck dollars to fix rexall. The hook was it had to be offered locally before it could be moved, and then the EIG showed up.

Was Bettman a member of the EIG or Edmonton City council? If not he didn't do JACK to keep the team here.

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#25 Wanye Gretz
August 26 2009, 03:39PM
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@ Ender the Dragon:

Balsillie should front me the dough as a front to buy the Coyotes on his behalf. Not only would I pretend I would keep the team in PHX then later move the team during an exhibition game, but I would also communicate the move to the fans via BlackBerry.

Who am I kidding - if Balsillie gave me that kind of money I would do three things:

1) Hire 1,256,767,899 Hells Angels to beat the piss out of Dany Heatley

2) Buy 1,256,767,899 thank you cards for the Hells Angels that earlier beat up Dany Heatley

3) Build a moon base

Cam wrote:

Was Bettman a member of the EIG or Edmonton City council? If not he didn’t do JACK to keep the team here.

That's not the case my friend. In those days moving CDN teams to the US was all the rage. Bettman created the Canadian Assistance Plan which allowed extra loot to flow to the Canadian Teams until the EIG (bless their hearts for all eternity) got their money together.

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#26 jeff
August 26 2009, 03:43PM
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Isn't Smyth in LA?

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#27 Pouzar
August 26 2009, 03:44PM
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@ Cam: Bettman orchestrated the Canadian Dollar equalization fund, subsidzing teams like the Oilers when the dollar was in the crapper. He convinced owners of US teams (even though they were losing money) to help out Canadian teams like Edmonton and Calgary via this fund.

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#28 jeff
August 26 2009, 03:45PM
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@ Wanye Gretz: Balisillie should give the money to someone who is on their death bed and then have them will the team to him.

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#29 Ender the Dragon
August 26 2009, 03:48PM
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Wanye Gretz wrote:

I think the Smyth reference is more a slap in the face to Edmontonians for bungling the treatment of our star

If that's what it is, then I think it misses the mark. I don't think we bungled anything. Smyth was a good player but he wanted too much money for too long and at the end of the day the voice of reason prevailed. Kevin Lowe did what had to be done. If anyone thinks we should have the Smytty that plays in Colorado now eating up $5.5M of our cap space each year for the next 4 or 5 years, I'd say they have deep issues with the past.The only way that picture stings is if he had stayed at that price.

TLP, I think your good-natured shot at the Oilers is off-target.

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#30 Ender the Dragon
August 26 2009, 03:58PM
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@ jeff:

You're right; my bad. Smytty went to LA for Quincey, Preissing, and a 5th earlier this summer. I think LA will regret that move sooner or later.

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#31 freeze
August 26 2009, 03:59PM
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jeff wrote:

Isn’t Smyth in LA?
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#32 Teufel
August 26 2009, 04:09PM
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The NHL should allow Balsilie to buy the team, but only allow him to move the team to Winnipeg. At least the Jets went some place sunny and warm, if they're going to head back north, send them home instead of to the sweaty crotch of Ontario.

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#33 TLP
August 26 2009, 04:13PM
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Ender the Dragon wrote:

@ TLP: But why the hell Smytty? What’d he do to you?

he played for and captained the oilers. imagine how delighted you'd be if iginla got traded and cried at the press conference, especially if he had girl's hair.

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#34 Ender the Dragon
August 26 2009, 04:21PM
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TLP wrote:

imagine how delighted you’d be if iginla got traded and cried at the press conference, especially if he had girl’s hair.

OK, the picture aside, that's a little bit funny.

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#35 Librarian Mike
August 26 2009, 04:34PM
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Katz is in a different position than Balsillie for another reason: When Gary Bettman had to go destroy the One Ring of Power, Katz went with him and carried him part of the way too. You can't buy that kind of loyalty.

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#36 BigE57
August 26 2009, 04:35PM
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If the vote was 26-0 then it wasn't unanomous, I think there are 30 teams, Phoenix isn't counted as their owner had to give up his rights so there are 3 teams that abstained from voting, Daryl Katz? The governor of the Flames? We know Toronto and Ottawa would be voting against Balsillie so who chose not to vote?

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#37 jeanshorts
August 26 2009, 04:43PM
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@ BigE57:

Well I'm pretty sure Boots was busy filing for bankruptcy or committing fraud somewhere, so he definitely missed the meeting. And Charles Wang was probably trying to resign his maid to a 3409 year 8 billion dollar contract.

That other MIA vote though, that's a head scratcher.

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#38 smiliegirl15
August 26 2009, 04:44PM
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The problem with Balsillie is the fact he wants to move the team. I think if he wanted to be an owner and leave the team where it was, the NHL wouldn't have a problem with him. His desire to buy a team and move it wherever the hell he damn well pleases sets a terrible precedent for franchise teams. Then it comes down to whomever has the most money, has the most power and could theoretically buy the Montreal Canadians and move them to Timbuktu. Dangerous, dangerous precedent and that's why the league has a hate on for Jim Balsillie.

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#39 thenosebleedsection
August 26 2009, 04:51PM
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I think Balsillie is doing it all wrong. He should offer a bit less but say he will keep the team in Phoenix for this season and this season only. Then after the season is finished and the 'yotes are in the cellar once again you move them.

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#40 Ender the Dragon
August 26 2009, 04:51PM
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smiliegirl15 wrote:

The problem with Balsillie is the fact he wants to move the team. I think if he wanted to be an owner and leave the team where it was, the NHL wouldn’t have a problem with him.

Oh, I think you're absolutely right. Which makes the league even more two-faced in my opinion; they'd announce him to the world as a stand-up hero if he was willing to hemmorage money in Phoenix, but if the guy actually wants to make money on his investment, he has deep character issues that make 26 owners question his integrity. That's nice.

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#41 Librarian Mike
August 26 2009, 04:52PM
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jeanshorts wrote:

That other MIA vote though, that’s a head scratcher.

Larry Tanenbaum was probably out golfing with Tie Domi that day, or busy planning the 'Brian Burke One-Year Anniversary' ceremony for this season.

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#42 Ender the Dragon
August 26 2009, 04:54PM
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thenosebleedsection wrote:

I think Balsillie is doing it all wrong. He should offer a bit less but say he will keep the team in Phoenix for this season and this season only. Then after the season is finished and the ‘yotes are in the cellar once again you move them.

No way Glendale accepts that kind of deal if they get a say. Bettman has promised to 'keep' the team in Phoenix. He's drawn his line in the sand and I'm afraid he'll have to defend it to the death.

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#43 BigE57
August 26 2009, 04:54PM
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smiliegirl15 wrote:

His desire to buy a team and move it wherever the hell he damn well pleases sets a terrible precedent for franchise teams. Then it comes down to whomever has the most money, has the most power and could theoretically buy the Montreal Canadians and move them to Timbuktu. Dangerous, dangerous precedent and that’s why the league has a hate on for Jim Balsillie.

Remind me again why there are teams in Phoenix, Colorado and Carolina?

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#44 The Menace
August 26 2009, 04:56PM
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Ender the Dragon wrote:

but I just can’t imagine Jason Gregor or Robin Brownlee similarly adopting a degrading photo of a hockey player as their avatar.

Does Willis have a pic of Comrie as his avatar? Somehow, I seem to think he does.

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#45 smiliegirl15
August 26 2009, 04:58PM
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Ender the Dragon wrote:

they’d announce him to the world as a stand-up hero if he was willing to hemmorage money in Phoenix, but if the guy actually wants to make money on his investment, he has deep character issues

I don't think it's so much that they don't want him to make a return on his investment so much as protecting the other franchises within the league. I think they realize as well as anyone else that Phoenix is not a great hockey mecca, even with Wayne Gretzky as head coach. It kills me that Oilers tickets are so expensive while places like Tampa practically give their tickets away on Pepsi can offers (seriously).

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#46 smiliegirl15
August 26 2009, 05:00PM
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BigE57 wrote:

Remind me again why there are teams in Phoenix, Colorado and Carolina?

Maybe the NHL is operating on the Ikea principle, you can only have a team based on population and how many other franchises are also in the area. ~

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#47 Mike from Hardware
August 26 2009, 05:04PM
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Isn't the bigger problem that Balsillie wants to move the team NOW?

Why not promise you'll wait at least for this season. It's completely unreasonable to expect that you could move it that quickly anyways.

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#48 Gerald R. Ford
August 26 2009, 05:07PM
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TLP wrote:

because a) it’s hilariously funny to me and b) this is at least in part a comedy website. if you can’t have a sense of humor about the team you support...

It is kind of funny. I don't know about "hilarious", but, it's no big deal to me. It's more creative than radio douches screaming "CALGARY SUUUUUUUUCKKS" into their microphones. All in good fun. Or pure spite. Rivalries need both, after all.

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#49 jeanshorts
August 26 2009, 05:12PM
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The Menace wrote:

Does Willis have a pic of Comrie as his avatar? Somehow, I seem to think he does.

It's a busted up Pouliout as far as I can tell.

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#50 Ender the Dragon
August 26 2009, 05:14PM
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@ smiliegirl15:

Chester Copperpot June 12 2009 wrote:

If Balsillie is gets his team I believe a dangerous precident is set. What’s stopping a and wealthy kazoollionaire from out bidding the Molson Brothers & Celine Dion and moving the Habs to Old Glory, Texas?

Ender the Dragon June 12 2009 wrote:

About 2 or 3 million misguided (but not insolvent) Habs fans across North America. The bottom line is that everyone in this world wants to make money and even rich boys who like shiny toys have to look at the price tag when there’s 9 digits involved. If a franchise is making money where it is, ther’ll be someone who has an interest in keeping it there. It won’t be until the day that someone can prove (or is willing to gable huge) that the Habs can make more money in Old Glory that the team would become the Texas Canadiens.

If a team can make more money in a new location than in the old one, it should probably move. Yes, in some cases it might take revenue from other franchises. If Houston gets a team, Dallas makes less money and they're unhappy. If Dallas claims a loss the following year and blames it on the new Houston franchise, they're screaming bloody murder. I get it. That's not the case here, though, and that's why I don't understand why Bettman picked this hill to die on. Hamilton getting a team arguably affects Toronto, Ottawa, and Buffalo. Still, I don't think anyone can say with a straight face that any of those franchises would fail to make money if Hamilton gets a team. The market-share of ticket revenue that Hamilton would siphon off any of those teams is miniscule, and the loss of promotional sales (jerseys, hats, etc) to a new franchise would also be fairly minor after the first year.

Smilie, I get why the owners are scared and fighting this. I'm just suggesting that they're overreacting and that the 'precident' set is not nearly so frightening as they are imagining.

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