June 15, 2007
Balsillie buzz swarms awards
By MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media
Midway through the swank NHL awards ceremony last night, host Ron MacLean offered up some earth- shattering news.
"This just in -- Jim Balsillie has purchased the Elgin Theatre and is moving the (show) to Kitchener," MacLean quipped.
MacLean was joking, of course, eliciting a chuckle from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who were sitting together for the event at the aforementioned Elgin Theatre.
But the Balsillie issue is no laughing matter.
Given the apparent desire of the Blackberry magnate to move the Nashville Predators to southern Ontario -- Hamilton, specifically -- it was a topic that created a lot of buzz among hockey types last night.
The team that would look to suffer the most from a Hamilton franchise would appear to be the Buffalo Sabres, who dip into Canada to draw fans. But Sabres president Larry Quinn was taking the high road when asked about the Hamilton situation last night.
"About 12% of our fans come from Canada," Quinn said. "It's not an issue for us, really. "I know the local radio station did a survey of fans and most were against it."
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff also took the politically-correct route when the subject was brought up.
"I can't tell you what the effect of a team in Hamilton would be," he said. "If (we) have a winning team, then the fan support for us will take care of itself."
One NHL executive said he thinks the city of Nashville will buy up enough tickets to keep the team in Tennessee.
One man who would love to see the NHL come to the Steel City is former Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn, a Hamilton native.
"The last time Hamilton was vying for a team, I was the alternate governor for Vancouver," Quinn said. "I think it would be great. The corporate support might be an issue but I think there would be more than enough fan support in the area."