Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Jim Balsillie Will Not Rest Until There Is a Hockey Team in Hamilton

Nashvillians know Blackberry co-CEO Jim Balsillie as the guy who nearly bought the Predators in 2007 and who already was selling season tickets for the Hamilton Predators 2007-2008 season before the sale was final. This presumptuous move prompted a local group to step in and purchase the team from then owner Craig Leipold. The Preds seem to being doing well (especially considering the economy and the absurdity of major-league professional hockey in Nashville) under the new ownership group.

The Phoenix Coyotes are not doing well, having filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy yesterday. Within hours of the filing, Jim Balsillie had an offer on the table to buy the team and move them to Hamilton.

While I would like Jim Balsillie and other billionaire Canadians with relocation ambitions to stay away from the Nashville Predators, I support in principle moving teams from non-traditional American markets to Canada. It boggles my mind that Raleigh, North Carolina has an NHL team but Winnipeg (the home of the Phoenix Coyotes, then known as the Winnipeg Jets, until 1997) does not.

I understand that there are legitimate financial reasons why there are as many teams located south of the Mason-Dixon line in the U.S. as there are in all of Canada; I understand that any Canadian city that doesn't already have a team would be much smaller market than even Nashville and Raleigh; I understand that three of the last four Stanley Cup winners came from non-traditional American markets; and I understand that thousands of Nashvillians love the Predators, just as thousands of Georgians love the Thrashers and thousands of northern Californians love the Sharks. But Americans in the south and the far west don't have the same passion for hockey as our neighbors to the north, and it would be nice to see Canada get another team or two. I'm not sure that Hamilton, given its proximity to Toronto and Buffalo, would be the right place for an NHL team (though it wouldn't be much different than having teams in New York City, Long Island, and New Jersey). But it would be nice to find a way to put a team back in Winnipeg or Quebec City.


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