Monday, December 8, 2008

Balsillie back at it again

In a story set to be published this week in Western New York Hockey magazine, the Buffalo Sabres have reportedly made overtures to Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie to buy the club.

The kicker to this deal is that Balsillie has the potential to have the Sabres play some games in Hamilton, Ontario.

Previously, Balsillie has been involved with talks about purchasing the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators, but has not gotten far because of his desire to have a team in his native country.

In a prepared statement from the Sabres managing partner, Larry Quinn, the Sabres have no intention to sell the team, nor move them out of Buffalo.

My personal opinion: where there is smoke, there usually is fire.

Current owner Tom Golisano bought the team back in 2003 for $92 million, and by doing so, brought them out of bankruptcy. Since that time, the Sabres have become one of the best teams in the league, with a deep farm system and seen their popularity soar.

However, the Sabres may have financial problems. We may find out in this article when it's published, but in these times of economic crisis, I'm sure many rumors like this will pop up about owners looking for help from folks like Balsillie. There is also the recent history of GM Darcy Regier working under a very strict budget pre-lockout to show for potential financial issues.

This rumor may be just blown out of proportion. Maybe Golisano is looking for some investors and approached Balsillie about a minority ownership, and the story took flight from there. We all know how rumors start.

Anyway, what I'm getting at is that this isn't necessarily a story about the Sabres and their financial woes. It's also about Balsillie, who refuses to go away. He has a desire to own an NHL team, and he won't stop after he gets one. He's going to take it a step further and try and move that club to his native Canada.

I think that another team in Canada would be a good thing. I am not a proponent of contraction, nor am I for another expansion at this time. Either would be too soon for the NHL after the labor strike, and that would leave buying a team for Balsillie, and we know he'll try and move the team. After all, he did have a lease agreement in Hamilton, Ontario for the Hamilton Predators, and had people put down ticket deposits.

That does not mean Balsillie will be bad for the NHL. He definitely wants a franchise, and he's not being picky about the club. He certainly has the enthusiasm and business knowledge to make his team successful, and adding a new owner would certainly challenge other franchises and help spur the growth in the league.

Right here and right now, and with the Buffalo Sabres, I have to say no to Balsillie. The Sabres are one of the most popular teams in the NHL, and are positioned for success now and long-term in the player department. Maybe finances are looking down, but the Sabres have worked through that before, and Balsillie's help might get them one foot out the door in Buffalo. He'll get a team eventually, but I hope it's not at the cost of another.

No comments: