Needless drama


Anyone want to talk about the 0.000045% chance that Heatley becomes an Oiler? Kidding. We believe that horse has been beaten to death. Instead let’s talk about something that hasn’t been mentioned once by the sports media in the past two months: this business of the Coyotes and Jim Balsillie.

This Jim Balsillie v Gary Bettman thing is starting to piss us off. So much media coverage, so much bad blood though all that has really happened is that an uber rich potential owner appeared out of thin air and tried to purchase an NHL team that by all accounts is twelve shades of screwed. How dare he have the nerve right?

If for no other reason than to write article 1,459,604 on the subject we will also run the scenario past our brain banana and boil it down to a gelatinous concentration of what we think needs conversation. And hey – gelatinous goo is often delicious.

Things we will ignore

1. The Canada – US angle

We will leave this hornets nest alone and just say that passionate hockey fans live on both sides of the border and somehow bringing patriotism into the issue will not further any sort of debate or fix the situation.

2. The fact the Coyotes used to be the Jets

Yeah our very own brother lives in Winnipeg and basically considered going on a murderous rampage when the Jets left town. Fast forward a couple decades and the team could potentially return to Canada. But it ain’t returning to Winnipeg and Teemu Selanne won’t be returning in the early years of a sterling career. The damage has been done in the ‘Peg and it doesn’t seem to look like they are next in line for a franchise.

3. The idea that Phoenix somehow doesn’t have fans

This is probably the most annoying angle some people are taking on this whole issue. Of course Phoenix has hockey fans. Tens of thousands of them. It’s just that they have a couple other things to worry about these days – an economy in freefall, local industry crumbling to dust, house prices dropping faster than Chris Brown album sales and state services coming to a halt. You will have to forgive the city of Glendale/Phoenix if a good many of its residents decide to save their money for things like “food” and “car payments” not watching the likes of Enver Lisin and Daniel Winnik light the world on fire en route to another losing season.

4. That a lot of people don’t like Gary Bettman though he has toiled long and hard in the name of the NHL

Yeah yeah, tons of people don’t like Gary Bettman – but overall we do.  So let’s just leave the hatred of Uncle Gary that exists in some sets aside for the moment.

5. The economy is in the crapper

Fact: the North American economy is in the crapper. For the purposes of this debate let’s leave that alone too. You can’t move a hockey team solely on the basis that Phoenix is having economic troubles and is losing money – or you could make a case to move 10 or 11 teams in the NHL.

Things that enrage us completely

1. In the NHL there are a boat load of shady owners

We don’t have the energy nor do you have the time to discuss all the shady crap owners in the NHL have done in the history of the league. From ripping off players and pension funds, to numerous white collar crimes, jail time, bankruptcy, that dude in Buffalo that did something really bad, Pocklington dang near going to jail if it weren’t for Slats. Let’s just leave it at “the NHL has allowed a lot of shady folks into the owners suites provided they play by league rules. This lax screening process has been bad for the game, league stability in general and has doubtlessly scared off other potential owners of NHL teams.” How does a screening system that admits Oren Koules exclude Jim Balsillie exactly?

2. You are only as strong as your weakest link

Remember when you played Atom hockey and you had that super out of shape kid on your team who insisted on playing super long shifts even though people were going around him with alarming frequency? Remember how your Coach insisted that Fatso McOutofshape get equal ice time because you were “all on the same team?”

Same thing in a series of franchises like the NHL. You think a solid owner like Mike Illich is impressed having to sit back and watch all this drama unfolding with Balsillie and all these other owners that are having trouble? He owns the team in Detroit for heaven’s sakes. You know Detroit right – it’s the City that has lost over 50% of its population since the 1950s and has many sections that resemble Berlin after WWII? Yeah, the Detroit that is also in the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in as many years and has most of its team signed through the year 2020? The team that in theory should be one of your weakest links? Think the owner of that team wants to see his investment cut in value because you can only sell a team to someone that has successfully courted Gary Bettman?

Phoenix has also been hit hard by the economic clusterfuck that has become the US in the past 18 months. Is this their fault? No. Are the long term prospects for the area looking up? Hardly. Is there any reason to think that a team that has by some accounts lost upwards of $70 million and is playing to a third full barn is going to be able to turn it around any time soon on the strength of some local Phoenix owner?


So why force the issue? Thowing up a bunch of financial barriers only to keep the team in a down market and be bought by much less financially sound owners than Jim Balsillie is terrible for franchise owners and is just bad business.

We repeat: bad business.

3. Gary Bettman thinks he can somehow trump bankruptcy law with NHL bylaws.

Bankruptcy laws in the US are crazy powerful. Just ask anyone who has a defective product lawsuit with Chrysler in the US right now. Because of the impending bankruptcy of the company, a judge has ruled that Chrysler has no obligations to pay anyone that has a lawsuit or is receiving payments from Chrysler as compensation for injuries that have resulted from defective Chrysler cars and trucks. This means people who have had their backs broken, legs severed or a myriad of other horrific injuries will receive absolutely nothing by way of compensation due to a bankruptcy court ruling. This is serious stuff, bankruptcy court — all they set out to do is restructure things and recoup as much lost money as possible. It matters little who gets screwed over in the process.

Creditors be damned, they are going to get their pound of flesh in these here bankruptcy courts. And yet our friend Gary Bettman is having lawyers stand before a judge and say, “Well yes, technically the Coyotes are millions of dollars in debt. But rather than repaying these people we ask that you play hockey fan for a moment and consider the impact of moving the Coyotes to Canada and having everyone repaid. Wouldn’t that be bad?” If a bankruptcy court won’t help someone who has been severely injured as a result of the negligence of Chrysler, why on earth are they listening to byzantine NHL bylaws like Section 68-3J/4k2395 of the NHL Code of Governance which states:

“No person or persons shall do anything relating to the NHL unless Gary David Merle Bettman has expressly ok’d the transaction.”

Know what matters in bankruptcy court? Recovering investor money. But the NHL seems to think it is about the obligations of a franchise to play by league rules. That might be the case in good times but when you have declared bankruptcy nothing else matters except repaying creditors to the largest extent possible.

You would rather see millions of creditor dollars go unpaid in Phoenix because you don’t like the white knight that has offered to allow a good company man like Jerry Moyes to recoup his investment? You would rather send a message to NHL owners that their investment is treated this carelessly by NHL brass who aren’t there when a hail Mary investor materializes out of nowhere and offers a potential break even scenario to a man — who like many NHL owners — has taken an absolute bath on his investment?

This could cost you your job Gary. Be careful.

  • I'm a Scientist!

    I don't hate Gary Bettman, but I really don't like him at all anymore. To hear him question the Coyotes losses is astounding. To hear him compare saving hockey in Phonix to saving hockey in the Kingdom Of Edmonton (hockeys true home), Calgary, Detroit or even Chicao. Well Gary, there is a big diference between where hockey has decades of roots and where it dosn't even get mentioned on sports shows. If this was a pure business dispute, I could kind of understand, but it is so clearly a "I don't like him, and he isn't allowed in my club" thing. I for one think that Gary must be skating on really thin ice with HIS BOARD OF GOVERNORS, and if he loses, and has wasted alot of the money….could get bloody.
    Anyone checked out the ? Show your support if you believe.

  • I'm a Scientist!

    I find the bankruptcy issue very interesting.

    Yes the Coyotes have lost a boat load of money since they arrived in Phoenix so it only makes sense that they qualify for bankruptcy.

    But what I wonder is if the league doesn't have a point when say that they didn't need to go Chapter 11.

    Obviously all of the available numbers get slanted one way or another depending on what points people are trying to get accross and when talking about losses and profits there are 1000 ways manipulate things in terms of debt, interest and so on.

    But just for the sake of my point, if use the profit/loss numbers offered by Forbes and weigh it against how the Coyotes spent on just player salaries in the last 10 years it paints a picture of self destruction. Not a problem with the market specifically.

    There are only 3 years that the Coyotes would have had to be the lowest spending team in the league to avoid losses. Now granted two of those years they still would have had losses due to the salary floor.

    The remaining years they would have had to be around 23rd on average in the league in payroll.

    Edmonton, who operated on a strict budget routinely ranked around there and we are considered a very viable hockey market. Also interesting is that almost all of the teams that spent less have had more success on the ice.

    I wonder when this is all over if the league will try to find a way to prevent owners from willingly over spending on salaries just because they can afford to take the losses in any given year. I wonder if that is even a possibility to consider.

  • I'm a Scientist!

    The more I hear about this story, the sketchier it all gets. Personally, I'm still stuck on the fact that Gretzky makes $8 million to coach the Coyotes.

  • I'm a Scientist!

    I totally understand why the NHL wants Balsille to play by the rules, but I think at this point Balsille feels like he NEEDS to circumvent the "rules" in order to get this done. The guy is a businessy type guy. If he could have gotten his team without paying high priced lawyers a tonne of cash and banking on a 3rd party judge to rule on the matter, he would have. I wonder how many quiet attempts he really made to buy a team before he decided the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

  • I'm a Scientist!

    @ GSC:

    You make an excellent point. Somewhere or other I read something about Raiders owner Al Davis (yes the crazy one) getting into a brawl with the NFL on this same anti-trust law business.

    I love the drama though – remembering RIM just finished a massive legal battle over copyright infringement. Balsillie's lawyers are a well oiled machine.

  • I'm a Scientist!

    Point 3 regarding the Bankruptcy Law is absolutely correct.

    The court has no obligation whatsoever to consider the NHL's by-laws, especially when the league has a history of failing to follow those conditions. Not to mention, the clauses outlined by the Balsillie lawyers raise numerous questions about competition and anti-trust law.

    If the NHL wants their Constitution and by-laws weighed in the same light as bankruptcy law, then they'll have to answer some difficult and legitimate challenges to the legality of several of those clauses (particularly regarding territorial rights and relocation).