Bid makes no cents

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:13 PM ET

In southern Ontario, there might be three million hockey fans who would love to see an NHL team upon which to lavish their passion and dollars, but the fact of the matter is it's not those three million whose voices count here, but the 30 owners in the NHL.

Okay, and maybe that of a bankruptcy judge in Arizona.

At stake here is the right to harvest the rich and fertile ground (at least this is what everybody keeps telling us) that is the southern Ontario hockey market.

I'll bet you my BlackBerry having Jim Balsillie grab the Golden Horseshoe for a paltry $212 million of the rapidly-diminishing American greenback -- little of which they'll see -- certainly cannot be what some owners in the NHL want to see happen. For that, they must surely be happy they have their legal pitbull in commissioner Gary Bettman on a long leash, ready to rip into Balsillie's well-tailored pantleg.

If the southern Ontario market is going to be harvested -- and I think it is going to be later rather than sooner -- then certainly the men who sit around the NHL's board of governors' table are going to make sure they do so in a way to better the game.

That, of course, means bettering things for themselves.

It has been spun out there that some NHL owners think getting out of Dodge -- Phoenix, in this case -- and moving to Hamilton or Kitchener-Waterloo is a double benefit. It removes one of the franchises that is a potential leech each year, sucking out its fill of revenue sharing. The Balsillie-led plan to take over southern Ontario would add a team that would appear to contribute to the pot rather than drinking heavily from it.

But if the southern Ontario market is as rich and full of potential as we are repeatedly told it is, why would the other NHL owners let Balsillie have it that easily?

Right now, the people that would appear to benefit most from the move of the Coyotes to Hamilton's Copps Coliseum (for awhile at least) and then onto a rink built by Balsillie with his BlackBerry dollars somewhere near Kitchener, maybe, are Balsillie, soon-to-be-ex-Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes and the Coyotes' secured creditors.

Moyes, apparently, is right up near the top of the list of unsecured creditors after he threw the Coyotes into this bankruptcy situation.

So it sure looks like a good chunk of whatever money Balsillie throws at this deal is going to be going to somebody other than his fellow NHL owners.

Balsillie would get the rights to part of the lucrative Golden Horseshoe.

What do the rest of the NHL owners get out this deal?

Not much -- except for maybe Toronto and Buffalo getting some kind of payola for giving up part of their sphere of influence and even that's not guaranteed, depending on where Balisillie settles in long term.

The owners would be much better served letting Bettman find another sucker ... er, owner ... to take over the Coyotes in Phoenix and have that guy take care of the creditors and keep another U.S. television market in the mix (the rumour is the NHL was close to closing a deal with ChiSox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, whose baseball team enjoys spring training in Glendale).

Then, when the league is good and ready to move into southern Ontario, it can busy itself with figuring out how to divide up what will be some very nice expansion cake, something the owners don't have to share with the players.

SALARY CAP UP?

One of the interesting moments in Balsillie's interview with Ron MacLean on Hockey Night in Canada last weekend was the suggestion by MacLean that a team in southern Ontario would be such a revenue generator that it would drive the salary cap up and make life even more difficult for the have-nots in the NHL.

That, of course, is simply the history of the NHL. The interesting part of the question for me is the belief there is that much money to be made with a third Ontario team.

So, if that's the case, why allow a guy like Balsillie just to waltz in and take over this great, lucrative, barely tapped hockey market when, really, it belongs at this point to the other owners?

If putting an NHL team in southern Ontario is a licence to print money, there have to be some owners who want a share of the profit from the sale of the printing press.

Just another way to look at it.


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