Balsillie-Bettman opera brings new understanding

JOHN SHORT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:45 AM ET

Years ago, an old media guy discussed with cubs like me the possibility that reporters might join service clubs or other valuable institutions.

"I would never condescend to join a club with standards so low that they would allow me to enter," he said. At the time, I thought he was joking.

Today, watching the comic opera involving Jim Balsillie and Gary Bettman, there is new understanding.

The question should not be why Bettman works so hard to keep Balsillie and his billions out of the NHL.

Far more interesting is why Balsillie wants to join a club of rogues that once included the likes of Peter Pocklington, Bruce McNall, Harold Ballard, Nelson Skalbania and the culprits who were made welcome in Long Island and various other places.

- - -

To spend part of a day in Calgary, as I did on Friday, is to see more and more clearly that Mike Keenan is about to leave the Flames.

The same likelihood applies to some or all of his coaching associates.

Their trip to the guillotine is being delayed, it seems, because nobody wants to steal the sports-page headlines from the Western Hockey League playoff drama involving the Calgary Hitmen.

Apparently, general manager Darryl Sutter has escaped a similar fate - for now.

- - -

Sutter, who's easy to respect but hard to know up-close, is known for keeping cards close to his chest, but by comparison with the Oilers' brain-trust, he is an open book.

It was kind of fun to watch the dancing and twisting that the 37-member Oilers ownership had to go through in order to keep the franchise alive here, and to keep cash flowing at a satisfactory rate in later years.

"Open and transparent" was a sort of mantra for the entire organization in those days but it applied to business dealings rather than specific hockey matters.

Kevin Lowe was a master of secrecy. From what little the public can learn these days, owner Daryl Katz can clench his jaws even tighter.

- - -

I'd love to see Tye Fields practise for an evening with the Edmonton Energy.

Fields told me last week that he played basketball at a good level, and there's no doubting that the IBL is a good (not great) professional level.

The likeable southpaw stands six-foot-eight or six-foot-nine and weighs close to 260 pounds. Next to Energy pivot Kevin Shand (six-foot-11 and 275 pounds), he's a midget.

- - -

One more name for the Oilers coaching carousel: Brian Sutter.

He was a great player and a successful NHL coach before leading the Bentley Generals to an Allan Cup.

Last winter, at a banquet honouring the great Glenn Hall, Sutter told me he has turned down NHL offers because "things weren't quite right."

Maybe here, close to his Sylvan Lake home, a fit could be found.

JCSHORT@SHAW.CA


Videos

Photos