Can't Gary Bettman just have one good week? Ratings are strong, the hockey is great. But now he's hit with the news that "Boots" Del Biaggio may have committed a $10 million loan fraud to raise money to co-own (and thus save from relocation) the Nashville Predators, along with the reemergence of billionaire Jim Balsillie and his CrackBerry money.
Theresa Tedesco of The National Post breaks the story that Balsillie has been in discussions or has received overtures from no less than eight NHL teams about buying their franchises or coming on as a part-owner. The Post names the Atlanta Thrashers, Carolina Hurricanes (beat writer Luke DeCock believes Balsillie reached out to the Canes), Tampa Bay Lightning, Dallas Stars and the Edmonton Oilers, although Balsillie has no interest in owning a Canadian team. No, he's still all about swiping a struggling U.S. team and shipping it up to Hamilton, Ont. -- which was his plan during failed attempts to own the Pittsburgh Penguins, Nashville Predators and Buffalo Sabres.
Twin headaches here for Bettman and the NHL. First, it's obvious that for all the happy sunshine blown up the backsides of fans about the current state of the League, most of the Southeast Division is looking to tap Balsillie's piggy bank, fully knowing his intentions to move teams. Of course, there's no way Bettman would have known the U.S. dollar would be in the toilet back when he stole a season from hockey fans in order to sure-up these struggling franchises. (Now can we have out season back, Gary?)
The other headache: Jim Balsillie. It's fairly obvious that this guy is going to own an NHL team at some point, and that he will attempt to move said team to Hamilton or Kitchener or somewhere in that neck of the woods. The question is whether the NHL and his ownership peers will let him, because he's not exactly a beloved figure. We're talking about a guy who started selling season tickets for a team that he didn't own, in a city that it didn't play in.
Hmmmm .... Nashville co-owner Del Biaggio is facing federal charges and lawsuits ... Balsillie and his CrackBerry money are still trying to buy into the NHL ... uh-oh, better fire up the petitions again.