Jim “Ballsy” Balsillie vs. Gary “BS” Bettman

Ding, ding, ding…round three is under way!

What we know for sure, now, is that this one is going to the Judges…the Chapter Eleven Judges, which makes this more transparent, but no more easy to predict.

Ultimately it will come down to 2 things;

1. Did Moyes, by accepting secured NHL debt, abdicate his fiduciary responsibilities to the NHL?  In other words, did he already defacto sell the team to the NHL, thus rendering him ineligible to file the Coyotes for Chapter 11?

2. If Moyes did retain this right to file for bankruptcy, can the court force the NHL to accept the best offer (which, at 212M will surely be Balsillie)?

Bettman claims the court cannot.  He insists that it is the NHL board of governors, via its “charter” system of accepting clubs into the league, that has the final say who owns teams, and where they play.  But, it is the courts sole mandate to ensure creditors, via chapter 11 proceedings, receive the best “lawful” deal to satisfy the outstanding debts incurred by the entity in chapter 11 proceedings.

So, if the deal of 212M is far and away the best deal available, can the NHL refuse to allow this deal to take place, for no legitimate financial reason, thus denying creditors the best return on their interests?  Will the court protect the nefarious rights of the NHL to control its franchises ahead of fullfiling its legal responsibility to protect the rights of secured debt holders?

I doubt it.  Certainly not in todays economic climate.  Chapter 11 is specifically designed to over-see the best return for these creditors, who will rightfully claim their secured credits were incurred by the Coyotes, not the NHL, and if the NHL wants the power to veto a deal, then they can assume responsibility for the debt too, but this have their cake and eat it too approach is BS.  Which, I suspect, Balsillie, and Moyes, knows full well.  That’s why they filed Chapter 11, to cut Bettman, and his self interests, out of the proceedings.

So, ultimately, either the NHL absorbs the debt of the Coyotes, in one way or another, and dies on its own sword, or they get over their ego’s and accept that the Coyotes, in Arizona, are what they are, bad debt, with no reasonable likelihood of return, and accept Balsillie moving the team to a viable market, thus improving the fortunes for all involved.  All except but Bettman, who will be tossed for having created, and worse, exacerbated this fools errand of putting NHL teams in untenable hockey markets.

It was a beautiful dream Gary, but it failed, get over it, and quit throwing OUR good money after bad.

The players don’t want a boat anchor, money losing team cutting into their escrow and salary cap, the profitable owners don’t want to pay a yearly equalization fee, with no real prospects of profitability.

So who wants the Coyotes to stay, and why?

1. Bettman, because he’s a narcissist.

2. Ontario Teachers, because they would rather pay a share of the millions in equalization then have to actually compete with a neighbouring team.

3. The other “precipice” teams who, ironically, also don’t pay equalization, don’t want the cap to rise due to the impact of profitable teams, and who are hoping (counting on?) Bettman somehow stringing along Balsillie until he can sell him a new expansion franchise, thus getting their portion of the “expansion fee” to pay down their own mounting debts vs. having those same millions going to pay only Moyes debts.

4. Buffalo Sabres owner Golisano who benefits by soaking up the Leafs left-overs, and doesn’t pay equalization anyhow.  It is well known he has made every effort to maximize his equalization income, at the expense of his teams competitiveness, all while trying to flip his team for a tidy profit.

Is this good ownership Gary?  Is this someone working toward the best interest of the league?  No, but he sure is a hell of an ally, right?  My enemies enemy….

What about ‘ol “Boots”, your last white night, how is his fraud case going?

Or the Tampa clowns…what a stabilizing group that is…yeah, who needs a good rich owner, and a profitable team, right?

But, will these teams actually be willing to pony up the cash it will take to keep the Coyotes afloat, or worse, satisfy the courts by matching Balsillies offer?  Somebody will have to pay.  The NHL cannot have both full legal authority over the team, but zero financial liability.  This is not a tenable argument, no matter what document or charter was signed.  You cannot enforce an illegal contract, and one which creates said situation would certainly be considered as being in violation of the US anti-trust laws…if put to the test.

Gary, accept this is the result of your failed expansion dreams, not a Balsillie led assault on the integrity of the NHL or it’s “charter” rules.  This wouldn’t be happening if you hadn’t hoodwinked cities into spending hundreds of millions on white elephant arenas, chasing pie in the sky NHL dreams.

This, Gary, is YOUR mess, not OURS.

YOU’RE the CON-MAN, but to cover your own ass, you’re hanging the entire league out to dry.

It will come to a head, eventually, maybe this time, or maybe the next, but the truth of the situation cannot be hidden forever.  The NHL, as it stands, is like the sub prime mortgage fiasco.  A lot of people bought nice shiny new teams, thinking they’ll just keep growing in value, but, once the real costs of ownership became evident, they realized they were sold a bill of goods, and Bettman was the grinning con-man who talked them into it.  And like any good con-man, he’ll deny, deny, deny, as long as he can, to save his own skin.

As it stands, this league is run by a Cabal of the money losing franchises, forced to do whatever it takes to control their financial hemorrhaging, and are effectively financed by a few (and now grumbling) money making franchises, who have seen their authority slowly usurped in a bloodless coup.  The “losers” got their lock-out, to no avail, their equalization, and now manage their teams to maximize equalization revenue vs focusing on stand alone income models, and now they want to worsen the league by keeping the Coyotes, and eventually adding more franchises, just to put off their own inevitable collapses.  Does anyone truly believe Nashville, Florida and Phoenix and Atlanta will survive long term?  They won’t, and acting like they will is akin to acting like the “new” Coke was a brilliant business decision.

My bet, there will be a new Commissioner attending the first game, of the 7th Canadian franchise, in the 09/10 season.



3 Responses to “Jim “Ballsy” Balsillie vs. Gary “BS” Bettman”

  1. I completly agree, I just dont’ understand why Bettman think that people are all of a sudden going to start going to games in Atlantia and Phoniex. You could say the new car smell has worn off and nobody is interested in these teams anymore.

    Now he said today that “We fix the problems. We don’t run out on cities.” WTF, what about all the Candian teams you ran out of canada just 10 short years ago. You can pull out that line after all the shit youve done the past 16 years.

    Even if they move the team to canada and it loses alittle money, Isn’t it better to have a full arena and lose money then have a half empty arena and lose money. I thought this was about the fan, but really its just about money

  2. Well said. This may be one of those classic tales of hubris that leads to Buttman’s demise. Pride, his tragic flaw, has prevented him from just shutting up and letting Ballsly have his franchise in SO. Now he’s confirmed that it is a personal thing, possibly between these two men, but at the very least a personal mission for him to keep loser teams in bad hockey markets for the chance of big network deals, that endless carrot on the stick for the owners that might still listen to him. If Buttman loses this battle, which I hope he will, he’s done. He’s drawn the line in the sand now publicly. Our suspicions that this was personal have now been confirmed, and he rep, nay his entire legacy is now at stake. The smartest thing Buttman could have done was shut up and say, “see, I wasn’t opposed to Ballsly or another team in SO.” But he couldn’t swallow his pride, and now he could be done. The horrible PR, at least in Canada, will destroy him.

  3. Good point Nick. Seriously. WTF?! Where was Butman when the league ran out on on Winnipeg and Quebec? When the very team Ballsly is trying to take back to Canada left Canada in the first place?!!! Total and complete hypocrisy!

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