No shortage of unsavoury NHL characters

JOHN SHORT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:19 AM ET

At least one of Gary Bettman's many pronouncements came across as high-handed and arrogant after the NHL was allowed to escape from its many errors in the Phoenix Coyotes disgrace.

In saying that a league has the right to select its owners and the territories in which it will play, he was absolutely right -- but he made it sound like the NHL knew what it was doing all along.

If so, how did the wing-ding ownership in Tampa Bay come into being?

What about the legal issues raised over previous ownerships in Nashville with the Predators and in New York with the Islanders?

All of these messes occurred on Bettman's watch.

His predecessor, John Ziegler, was involved in making room for the likes of Peter Pocklington, Nelson Skalbania, Bruce McNall and others with financial histories that are often described, most generously, as "irregular."

Before Ziegler happened along, the NHL saddled itself with Harold Ballard of the Toronto Maple Leafs and allowed the Norris family to own both the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Black Hawks.

After spending time in the crowbar hotel for serious financial misdeeds, Ballard was named to the Hall of Fame as a builder.

I'm still waiting for someone to explain how that happened!

Jim Norris, titular head of the Hawks, was a top-level boxing promoter when the sport was at its bleakest. He openly bragged about his friendship with the likes of ex-convict Frankie Carbo, whose underworld associates called him "Mister Grey."

Norris is in the Hall of Fame, too.

Clearly, the vanquished Jim Balsillie made several mistakes in his bid to join this exalted lodge of NHL owners. After he found the front door locked, he then tried a side door, and eventually tried to squeeze through a window.

But it's only fair to say that the NHL has an excellent chance to do worse in its search for a new lodge member. History tells us that much.

Guessing games

In case you've been wondering, here are my NHL picks for the new season.

Stanley Cup final -- Pittsburgh over Anaheim

Division winners -- Vancouver, Detroit, Anaheim in the West; Boston, Pittsburgh, Washington in the East.

Will the Oilers make the playoffs? Only if the exalted leadership of Ethan Moreau, Steve Staios and their pals show the on-ice and dressing-room leadership that disappeared last year.

I'm all wet

Dumb decision: I drove from Toronto to Detroit last week to watch my beloved Tigers play the Minnesota Twins although rain had been forecast.

The weather guessers were right. Smart like truck, that's me.

But I did better than Prospects magazine publisher Terry Nistor. He got soaked at Comerica Park on the same night, then travelled to Cleveland for a Tuesday game.

That one was postponed as well.

JCSHORT@SHAW.CA


Photos