Tue Dec 21 03:56pm EST
This is Jim Balsillie. This is not Jim Balsillie in front of the Grand Ole Opry. OK, technically it is, in the same way that this is technically Gloating Bruins Fans on the Moon. But not really, because the original image looked like this.
In 2007, well before his attempt to acquire the Phoenix Coyotes, the BlackBerry billionaire nearly had a $220 million deal for the Nashville Predators in an effort to move them to Hamilton, Ont.; a deal that eventually fell through.
Tuesday morning, a long-dormant Twitter account bearing Balsillie's name spit out the following message:
Hi again, social friends! Very early morning. Nashville bound today! And not to learn how to write a country song.
Following that message was another one:
Statement on my intentions coming @ 1:00 PM. linked here on Twitter. Includes a three-letter acronym that isn't BBM!
By this time, everyone from hockey journalists to Nashville media to Predators blogs to blogs in Hamilton were following the drama and covering this as a potential news story, to the point where NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly was responding to press queries to deny Balsillie was in talks to buy the Predators again.
And it was a news story ... in the sense that "@jimbalsillie" had roped in thousands of curious onlookers via social media for what turned out to be a glorious hoax.
The "@jimbalsillie" account was active during the RIM founder's attempt to buy the Phoenix Coyotes out of bankruptcy in 2009. We exposed the Twitter feed as an imposter at the time; but in the go-go-go pace of social media in 2010, more people chose outrage or curiosity rather than validation. Which is understandable, given the completely random timing of the hoax.
Who was behind it? From the Financial Post Tech Desk:
Despite a second post that attempted to quell speculation about whether it really was the RIM boss using the Twitter account bearing his name -- "And because there seems to be speculation, a squatter had this account last year but has since relinquished it." -- it now appears that Mr. Balsillie is not, in fact, behind the fictitious Twitter account.
The posts are very clearly the work of an impostor, and it now seems likely that the guys behind the comedy Website Fun Time Internet are also behind the Fake Jim Balsillie Twitter account.
Indeed. The big announcement? From Fun Time Internet, which hosted "Billionaire Jim Balsillie" and his statement:
The Make It Seven team and I never stopped working towards a solution, and I believe we are close enough to a deal that I can announce it today.
I, Jim Balsillie, am buying a fantasy hockey team.
The team is "Jimz Thrasherz", and plays in Yahoo! Fantasy Sports' "No Douches Allowed" league. They were a perfect choice because the team has suffered from recent neglect -- Andrei Markov(notes) has not been scratched from the line-up since suffering an achilles injury, costing Jimz Thrasherz valuable points in the process -- and the fan base has begun to dwindle, as the current owner, Jim, has not bragged to his girlfriend about his "awesome wingers" in almost three weeks. As well, they're already named after me. No re-branding required.
I'm also happy to announce that I've signed a ten-year lease with the Copps Coliseum to relocate the Thrasherz to Canada and finally bring a team to his hockey-starved town. Beginning on January 1, fans will be invited to a weekly event where I will select a line-up with the help of my nephew Darby. Evgeni Malkin(notes), Phil Kessel(notes), Marty Turco(notes) -- come see us mention your favourite NHL stars!
With that, the @jimbalsillie Twitter feed was suspended, leaving the hockey world wondering if those who put down deposits for Hamilton Predators season tickets could roll those funds over into ticket packages with the Jimz Thrasherz ...