June 14, 2007
Bumpy road for Balsillie?Possible relocation of Preds not on NHL agenda
By LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media
Jim Balsillie's bold one-man rush to secure Hamilton as a secondary home for the Nashville Predators is encountering some NHL obstruction.
Though the local billionaire last night won approval to use Copps Coliseum in 2008-09 and, according to TSN, has a season-ticket plan ready to launch, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly relayed to Sun Media in an e-mail that "neither transfer nor relocation" will be voted on when the board of governors is updated on Tuesday.
The Canadian Press reported Balsillie will not even be invited to the meeting.
And the Maple Leafs, who've been silent at the prospect of interlopers at their back door, are miffed at talk that a second team in the area is what's needed to prod them out of lethargy and a 40-year Stanley Cup drought.
"Give us one good reason why we wouldn't want to win?" said Richard Peddie, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. "Yes, we're (financially successful), but give me a championship and we'll be even better. Winning is good business. We've tried hard, we just haven't won."
While Balsillie's lawyer, Richard Rodier, has been quoted about laying groundwork for a team within the perceived 80 km exclusive territory of the Leafs and Buffalo Sabres, Peddie was asked if his legal team is in lockstep for possible opposition.
"We're doing our homework in preparation for disussions," Peddie said. "I haven't seen anything firm to do with the sale, but when the time comes we'll listen to what's said and if necessary, respond."
Daly added no consideration has been given to a realigned NHL that would bring the Western Conference Preds into the East via Hamilton.
"This team has a lease in Nashville," Daly said.
Balsillie could just throw money at the Leafs to placate their concerns about TV rights, but the Sabres, with 15% of their season-ticket base in Southern Ontario, would take a far greater hit.
A Sabres official referred all questions about territorial infringement to the NHL.
Rodier told the CP yesterday that he's not worried about Balsillie getting shut out of next week's board meeting.
"There's nothing to read into this other than the process gets delayed," he said. "There's still a letter of intent (to buy the Preds from Craig Leipold for between $220-$238 million US). "
Late last night, Hamilton city council cleared Balsillie's plan to have his company run Copps, the adjoining convention centre, a theatre and a parking garage. Rodier insisted it's all a contingency plan should Nashville's lease be broken next year by a low attendance clause. But Rodier said there remains the possibility that a new rink in Kitchener-Waterloo would be the team's ultimate destination.
TSN said refundable deposits will soon be accepted: $500 (upper bowl seats), $1,000 (lower bowl) and $5,000 (suites).