Jim Balsillie and his lawyer are accusing Gary Bettman now of meddling in the BlackBerry CEO’s efforts to buy the Nashville Predators and, one would assume, move them to the Southern Ontario market (Hamilton), saying that Bettman would prefer that Preds owner Craig Leipold sell to the ownership group that wants the Preds in Kansas City or to a local group in Nashville, neither of which will put up close to the $238 million that Balsillie is offering. Bettman is on record saying that Nashville will not lose its team. Now, he may be going out of his way to ensure it.
His office is denying all of this, of course, but the piece cuts to the heart of the matter — the movement of the Nashville Predators across the 49th parallel would be seen as a failure of Bettman’s Southern Strategy, to field hockey teams spread across all of the U.S. Outside of the Dallas Stars, that movement has been a failure. Carolina and Tampa Bay have won Stanley Cups, but the infrastructure for local support, outside of the few die-hards, has not been there for the newer teams. The rationale for the lockout (evening the playing field for smaller teams) has been revealed as complete bullshit after the money the Rangers, Flyers, and Avs threw at free agents while the Sabres and Islanders were gutted.
Thus, Bettman cannot afford to look worse than he already does, and is accused of trying to salvage some form of legacy despite the best interests of the game. Having Balsillie move a team back to Canada would be the cherry on top of his crap stewardship of the NHL. Now, the accusations will head to the league’s board of governors, and while the odds say that this leak will probably doom Balsillie’s chances of being an owner, is there a possibility that the board will issue a bit of a rebuke to Bettman?