To Hab or Hab not

MIKE STROBEL, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

Hey, let's buy the Habs.

Make 'em an offer they can't refuse. (And I don't just mean the three Canadiens linked to a mobster.)

What? Are you nuts, Mikey? Buy the second most storied franchise in the NHL?

Yessiree. There has never been a better time.

Unless you are dead or a Sens fan, you know that George Gillett is thinking of unloading the team he bought in 2001.

Times are tough, even for American tycoons, and Gillett is up to his hips in England's Liverpool FC, NASCAR and other ventures and misadventures.

How much dough do we need to spring the second most valuable NHL franchise in Canada?

Forbes magazine says (US) $334 million. A pittance to the Maple Leafs' $400 mill. But no chump change, either.

If every one of my readers chips in $40, we can raise, oh, $40, if my mom's in town and flush with cash. So I suggest we broaden the net.

If every man, woman, child and chihuahua in the Golden Horseshoe puts up $40, we'll have the full fare, no mortgage, though I think we can get the Habs for much less.

Buy low, they used to say on St. James St. Before Bay St. took over.

And you can't sink much lower that the current Habs. Five losses in a row, heading into last night. Clinging to a playoff spot, despite last season's surge. Coach fired. Fans scowling. Team morale gone south. Centennial celebrations gone sour.

A hockey nightmare.

A buyer's dream.

Which explains why some big names are bandied about as possible buyers for Le Bleu-Blanc-Rouge. Celine Dion, even.

Jim Balsillie, who inflicted BlackBerrys on us, is a frontrunner. You will recall that last November he mused the Habs were for sale, which Gillett loudly denied.

The NHL wouldn't let Balsillie buy the Nashville Predators and move them to southwestern Ontario, but the league must deal with him sooner or later. I bet he's drooling over the Habs.

That would be something, eh?

The Kitchener Canadiens. Les Glorioux de la Riviere Grand. Ole-ole-ole-ole-prost!

Miss Oktoberfest would look sexy in red, white and blue.

The Canadiens could go from first to bratwurst.

And the city's radial street pattern is perfect for riots.

Hamilton is another possible site for Balsillie. It already hosts the Bulldogs, the Habs' farm team.

Now, there may be, ahem, a bit of a fuss in Canada's second largest city if the Canadiens are sold down the St. Lawrence River.

Move the Habs? Mon dieu, says Mayor Gerald Tremblay. "The fans will never let it happen and I will do everything that is humanly possible to ensure that it doesn't happen," he told the Montreal Gazette.

Right. And the Montreal Olympics could no more have a debt than a man could have a baby.

Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte -- and his $2.4 billion -- is a potential local candidate to pick up Les Habitants. Then he would own a circus and a zoo.

The Bronfmans and billionaire Paul Desmarais are in the thick of the rumour mill, too.

So is Pierre Karl Peladeau, who owns this newspaper and is a very big fan of the web.

I can hear him now: "Why do we need an arena? Can't we play this game online?"

Maybe PKP will let me centre a line with the Kostitsyn brothers.

So, most suitors are from Quebec. And Montreal would blow up the Bell Centre before letting Ontarians swing this deal.

But there's something delicious about us Hogtowners owning the Habs.

We can't seem to buy a bloody Stanley Cup on our own. Now we'd pick up 24 of them in one fell swoop.

I don't think this is so far-fetched.

Remember, in 1787 we bought this whole city from the Mississaugas of New Credit for 149 barrels of trade goods and some spare cash.

The natives even threw in parts of Vaughan and Markham.

Say, maybe we can pick up the Alouettes while we're at it.

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Mike Strobel's column runs Wednesday to Friday, and Sunday. mike.strobel@sunmedia.ca or 416-947-2265.


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