Originally posted on PredNation.com
On June 21st, Damien Cox of the Toronto Star, thestar.com, wrote an article discussing the impending Predators sale and the lack of movement by the Board of Governors. What follows is my rebuttal to Mr. Cox.
I was able to read your article entitled Why is Bettman so Scared of Canada?. Let me first say that I generally really enjoy your work. I always enjoy reading about the issues in the hockey world from several perspectives that I respect, and yours is most certainly one of those.
The Scared article certainly presented some perspectives- some with which I agree and others I disagree. I most certainly can’t argue that Bettman can appear disingenuous. I’m not certain if it’s the internal battle of lawyer vs. politician, but his public leadership efforts definitely come off as flat and pandering. If one isn’t careful, however, one could be mislead into believing the man is stupid from your article. In my eyes, I see Bettman as the uber-politician that is the ring leader to thirty other politicians. During his tenure, minus the first labor difficulties in 1995, he has done a really good job at keeping all the owners on “one side of the aisle”, to borrow a piece of American political jargon. He is obviously a respected leader to the owners- even if he would be better suited as the “quiet-type”. I'm not saying all of his policies are successful, but his attempts to keep the owners on his side have been.
While the intent of Bettman’s words is not obvious to many, you can be sure that they are very well calculated. The statement you quoted as your “Example A”, as well as the “not in favor of destabilization” quote, does an excellent job at illustrating just that. One has to keep in mind that a successful sports league in today’s world has to have a high level of franchise stability as well as excellent television contracts to truly thrive. It’s pretty obvious that the league has been pursuing the television contracts for years, but the league has generally shown a decent level of perceived protection of its existing franchises as well. Those two statements by Bettman say publicly that the league is following their own rules and protecting their franchises. You are correct in that it may actually further destabilize the Nashville market. If it does, then Balsillie will get his franchise- in Hamilton no less. If it doesn’t however, or a prolonged legal battle occurs, the league is covered. Jim Balsillie’s intentions are pretty clear and really do not represent a “good faith” try in the current market. It’s also pretty obvious that the City of Nashville is not letting this team go without a fight (assuming Balsillie doesn’t throw a lot of money at Nashville in an attempt to have them go away). Bettman's goal should be to protect the league first, and the franchises second. Having read your articles for some time, my personal belief is you completely understand that and are just trying to make Bettman look silly (to use your words) and pandering to your local audience. I hope not, because your prior work says you are better than that.
As for stating that the league is being so obviously insulting to Balsillie- I don’t see it. If there’s any insulting going on, it’s coming from Balsillie’s side. Given the amount of money Balsillie has offered for the franchise, and his efforts in Hamilton, it’s pretty obvious that Balsillie is attempting to bully the Board of Governors. I don’t know about you, but most people do not like to get bullied. Publicly bullying a group of politicians into allowing you into their circles usually doesn’t work either. Now, it’s very possible that money will talk and Balsillie will eventually get his team (in the form of the Predators). It’s also possible that if the BoG is given another alternative (via AEG, a Nashville owner, or someone else) very close to Balsillie’s offer, that they would move in that direction in order to get the revenue minus the heartburn of Balsillie. Again, I believe you know all of this too.
While I am a fan of the Nashville Predators, I also write for PredNation.com and try to be objective as possible. I also hold no ill will towards Craig Leipold (as my Open Letter to Craig Leipold indicated- which he appreciated), nor do I hold any ill will towards Jim Balsillie. Both men are business men, and are making business decisions. I do believe that Balsillie is not playing the political game correctly. It may, or may not, cost him in the end when it comes to the Predators. I wouldn’t mind the league expanding into Hamilton (with Balsillie as the owner) and Las Vegas (with Bruckheimer as the owner). The league could charge more from the Canadian networks as well as use Bruckheimer’s connections to pursue larger contracts with American networks (hopefully with something like TNT- a network recognized for their sports work and has a HD feed carried by most, if not all, cable and satellite companies).
It’s very possible that I am wrong in my beliefs that you are pandering to your audience, and that you really are underestimating Bettman and the league. If so, I do apologize.
Since your article is in the public domain, I will post this on PredNation.com as well as MyHockeyBuzz. I look forward to reading your future articles.