SUN Hockey Pool

Bettman, Balsillie deserve each other

JOHN SHORT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:34 AM ET

TORONTO -- More and more, it is obvious that neither side is right in the battle between Ontario opportunist Jim Balsillie and the Gary Bettman fiefdom known as the National Hockey League.

Media wretches and other members of the public are often assured that Balsillie is a smart man.

Maybe so, but he conducted himself like a dummy in this case.

Having already offended Bettman with his actions in trying to grab the Nashville and Pittsburgh franchises a few years back -- remember him talking about season-ticket sales and other inner matters long before his bids had been properly assessed? --Balsillie should have learned some rules of procedure.

Instead, he tried what football fans might call an end run and was flattened a long way short of a first down.

From the outside, it's easy to understand why Bettman was, and is, offended. Any leader worth his weight in brown sugar would have reacted with equal anger.

Whether or not you like the tiny, perfect NHL boss, it must be recognized that his intellect is top-level. But brain-power and good judgment are not automatic co-pilots.

Bettman deserves all the criticism he ever received for putting franchises into markets with no proven interest in Canada's game, and even more for continuing to insist they should -- no, must --remain in no-win situations such as Atlanta, Tampa Bay and other places.

Including Phoenix.

Bettman's objectivity is gone. Balsillie's methods have been sneaky.

These two guys, and allies in both misguided camps, deserve each other.

Hockey fans deserve better.

Horsin' around

A belief exists that Alberta horsemen cannot survive in Toronto, which ranks at or near the top of North America's top levels of thoroughbred and harness racing.

Quietly, Stu Simon is proving otherwise.

A solid guy in many important ways, Simon said on Wednesday that he has had "some luck" in these parts -- six or seven winners in his first season.

The number climbed one tick higher on Friday when Air Wolf went off as a favourite at Woodbine and won over six furlongs against solid claimers.

The good news is that Alberta horsmen can compete in other markets if they have to. The bad news is that they may have to, and quite soon.

Halladay's swan song?

Here, in the left-leaning but rightful centre of the universe, fans are known to be patient to the point of numbness.

They love the Leafs despite a Stanley Cup drought that has now stretched to a mere 42 years.

They recognize that the NBA Raptors can't win, but do a good job of filling Air Canada Centre seats anyway.

They laugh at the Argos and lament the failures of the Blue Jays.

All of which adds up to real sadness when a world-class performer leaves, or prepares to.

There is a real chance that Roy Halladay has pitched his last for the Jays.

Oh,well. They can always find a loser to replace him.

JCSHORT@SHAW.CA


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