Business is business

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

Gary Bettman will likely do all he can to keep Jim Balsillie from becoming an owner in the National Hockey League.

It's a shame.

The commissioner's ego and boundless belief the NHL can survive in markets like Phoenix is getting tiresome.

The Coyotes are all but officially dead. There's more than one reason current owner Jerry Moyes -- at least, before the NHL took over -- applied for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Losing millions of his own money every season, Moyes grew weary of Bettman's plea of patience as he tries to bring investors or potential owners to the desert in order to keep the team in that hostile hockey environment.

It's time the league views Balsillie as an ally instead of a bully.

After all, the bottom line is business, is it not?

Having another team in Southern Ontario all but guarantees increased revenues in the linked salary-cap world introduced after the lockout that nearly cost Bettman his job. That is good league-wide, and especially in Canada where a seventh franchise would unquestionably bolster the health of the game.

Putting forth a $212.5-million offer conditional on being allowed to move the team, Balsillie may have stepped on yet another toe or two in his end-around dealing with Moyes, whose bankruptcy filing is geared at pushing things through faster and leaving much in the hands of the courts before the league gets a chance to deal with the matter.

Of course, without approval from the board of governors, the move can't take place.

Calgary Flames board of governors representative Murray Edwards couldn't be reached for comment yesterday, but a team representative said the issue was "too sensitive to comment on as an individual team, and the Flames defer comment to the league."

You can bet Bettman is already rallying the troops.

He doesn't get a vote, but he's not making a secret of what his would be.

It's also no secret it's becoming a personal battle between himself and Balsillie. Bettman questions the tactic of snatching the Coyotes and says it's not about whether or not the BlackBerry billionaire would make a good owner, or how successful another Canadian team would be.

But that's exactly what this story should be about.

Balsillie wanted the Predators to move to Hamilton in 2007, but there are other options.

Money is no object, as his ridiculously generous offer for the penniless Coyotes indicates.

People have said Balsillie has been banging his head against a wall in his efforts to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins, Nashville Predators, and now Coyotes.

Really, it's the NHL that has been smacking its cranium on the bricks at the end of a narrow hallway -- those at the end of the tunnel Bettman has created with his vision of trying to force American cities to fall in love with the game.

For 13 years since moving the Winnipeg Jets to Arizona, the franchise has gradually been in decline.

Makes you wonder why Bettman is so insistent on making things work now when he had no problem with the Jets, Quebec Nordiques, Minnesota North Stars and Hartford Whalers all moving to southern states under his watch in the '90s.

Criticize Balsillie's approach if you want, but it might be the only way he ever ends up with exactly what he desires.

When you've got owners like Charles Wang of the New York Islanders publicly declaring his regret for purchasing a franchise, why wouldn't you want to bring someone aboard who's passionate about his plan?

If Balsillie can't buy an existing team and move them, he has to hope his resiliency will eventually convince the board of governors he's good for the league.

The commissioner, too.

If not this one, then the next.

Unlike owners of currently struggling NHL franchises, Balsillie can afford to be patient.


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