Hello fellow hockey fans,
Could you blame Winnipeg for being less than supportive of Hamilton’s bid for Canada’s return of one of two lost franchises? Well Winnipeg, Jim Balisillie may be your Santa in disguise!
In addition, should Phoenix fans be shouting the praises of the new NHL ‘stay home’ bidder? Hold onto your hat, things may not be what they seem.
If there is one aspect of the court proceedings in Phoenix that has been uncovered, it is the dirty laundry of the NHL. Why would an owner such as Jerry Moyes come to a man such as Jim Balsillie, if all was well in the NHL owner’s lounge? If it were up to the NHL, we would never know, and in fact, a chapter 11 filing by Moyes would never have happened. In fact, the NHL would like us to believe that Jim is not a good candidate for ownership, but his credentials say otherwise. Could it be that his background in money management is viewed as a threat to the relatively uncertain NHL operation?
There are many reasons that continue to surface that make this case, and the unfolding drama so interesting? OK, it may not be O.J. Simpson, but it has it’s merits!
The story is an intriguing one from many levels, and the fact that the Phoenix Coyotes have never made money since coming to Phoenix from Winnipeg, and the fact that a Canadian wants to bring the team back to Canada, is, in itself compelling. The offer made by Reinsdorf of $148 million is short of Balsillie’s $212.5 million by a significant amount. Rumour has it that Reinsdorf may see a buy low, sell high opportunity with the Coyotes (a fact outlined in this article), and in fact, he has little to no money down invested in his offer, further suggesting he is cautious to say the least. This strategy by Reinsdorf would be more in line with his desire to maximize profits from sports franchises at the expense of the fans (that is supported here), and taking on a very uncertain future in Phoenix does not match his business character.
I have been a large supporter of this team coming to Hamilton, for many reasons. The original reason was the boost to the City of Hamilton, as we are direly in need of stimulus in this City. But, as this story has evolved, I have been impelled to cheer for the Balsillie side for the reasons of morality, ethics, and just downright exposing the corruption that is becoming more evident as days and information go by.
The NHL has probably wondered how they can escape this PR disaster as unscathed as possible. I have formulated an opinion along with the help of fellow rant members on the makeitseven.ca website, and that link can be found here.
Given the facts, the plan of the NHL/Reinsdorf strategy could go something like this…..
When Moyes came to Balsillie, the offer was to pay off all creditors, including Moyes’ $100 million creditor stake, and take the team to Hamilton, Ontario. Gary Bettman did not want this to happen, and the NHL position is Chapter 11 filing cannot dictate to a league where a team will end up. That, according to Bettman, is the sole discretion of the league, and cannot be altered in court or anywhere else.
While in the early stages of court, Balsillie was the only offer on the table, and judge Baum had expressed to the NHL that if they want to keep the team in Phoenix, where are the other offers?
The NHL promised they would have offer(s) that would make Balsillie’s pale in comparison, and they were bringing in local owners very soon. Well, in the 11th hour, Jerry Reinsdorf made the bid discussed above. Why the 11th hour one might ask? Could the NHL become so desperate they devised a new plan? Reinsdorf had months to think over the prospects of keeping the team in Glendale, and due to the obvious lack of ‘jumping at the chance’, one would once again have to speculate that a ‘new deal’ with the NHL was made.
But, what could this new deal be? Why would the NHL want to keep the bid from public scrutiny, and why are they protecting the bid so precipitously? Could it be that they are unfairly favouring this bid? The answer and the mystery may be linked to the name, Tony Tavares. Tony was brought in by MLB to grease the skids for the exit of the Montreal Expos to Washington. Why Tony ‘skids’ Tavares? And, why again, the 11th hour bid?
I have put the puzzle pieces together. I would wager the Reinsdorf bid to stay in Glendale is nothing more that a way out for the NHL to defer blame to the City of Glendale for not being able to grant concessions to the Coyotes. What better way to get out of the arena lease than use the current bankruptcy case? The arena lease has always been the obstacle, and now it can be disposed of, or completely brought in line. How clever, eh? It is well known that arena concessions were requested by current owner Moyes, and the city shut him down, refusing to grant one concession for good reason, and did not to my knowledge have many, if any, conversations to address the issue. So, understandably, Moyes is upset by the city suddenly taking great interest in Reinsdorf. There is one other possibility that might make the negotiations with Glendale a little easier, and that is the relationship that Reinsdorf’s son Michael has with the City of Glendale, in his capacity of director of the International Facility Group (IFG). This would lend an interesting twist, outlined in a couple of other articles located here and here. But, wouldn’t this be unlikely, as it would most certainly be suspect as a conflict of interest, and an unfair advantage? Or is that how business works? The Reinsdorf’s may have been there, done that, as described in a previous lawsuit filed against Michael.
Reinsdorf has really turned up the heat on expectations for the concessions, including sharing revenues for Concerts and other arena events. This, to me, is the red flag! It is the intentional making of a deal breaker with unyieldable demands that strongly suggests the Glendale deal will never happen. The NHL and Reinsdorf knows, no doubt, that the Goldwater Group would have a legal field day with any concessions let alone ones of this magnitude.
So, why would he do this? Quite simply the only explanation is that he is doing it as a way out of Phoenix (with the help of Tavares), and a way for the NHL to avoid a PR disaster. To further ensure failure, Reinsdorf has added a further condition – the complete renegotiation of $118 million in secured debt, to add insult to injury. Basically, a no money down trial, at little to no real risk. If it works, they win with no money down. If it doesn’t work, bye bye Glendale. They win again! A perfect plan!
In the process, the NHL can paint Reinsdorf as the saviour of the NHL, the one who tried. A darling owner from a league approves of him perspective. He would then be able to relocate the team to a city that the NHL favours and is suitable from a profit standpoint, and low and behold, I am willing to wager that the mystery investment coalition (aka Tavares) will suddenly appear when the real money, and real offer hits the court tables.
Where will this leave us all?
Well, for sure, the fans in Phoenix will have been taken for a ride and a snowjob. And, will they truly be able to blame the City of Glendale for their hockey woes? The NHL would hope so, but I don’t think it will last long. With all the mudslinging from fans of hockey upon the NHL, the fans of Phoenix will wake up to realize that much of what they didn’t want to accept was true.
Now, the interesting part. There is rumour that this team could be destined for Las Vegas (where plastic ice was laid for the NHL Award Show), or, and this is from a fellow makeitseven ranter, it may end up back in Winnipeg! There you go Winnipeg, something to cheer about!
Let’s think for a moment. The NHL wants to get rid of Jim Balsillie, and what better way than to make it seven in Winnipeg. The Coyotes become Jets again! Who could argue with that? Certainly Jim Balsillie couldn’t, especially if the offer from Reinsdorf is, with help of Tony Tavares much higher than his own.
At the end of the day, Make it Seven may happen for Jim Balsillie, but he will need to then change his campaign to a very endearing, Make It Eight, eh? Jim, if the people of Canada are not yet shouting praises for what you are doing and what you have done so far, just wait, it will come. It sometimes takes a while for the hero to be viewed as such. But, this blogger knows the real truth, and I would argue that one day, the Order of Canada should be awarded to you!