Now I don't have a problem with southern Ontario finally getting an NHL team, but this guy is starting to irk me for a couple reasons, and in fairness I'll admit maybe some of it isn't his fault but some is. I don't fault him for wanting a team: he's got money and drive/ambition which might make him into a decent owner (or he might be a wingnut in waiting... think someone like Al Davis of the NFL's Oakland Raiders). I'm not a fan of how he goes about it: with both Nashville and Pittsburgh he talked about maintaining the team where it was as long as his conditions were met (which were stretches), and in Phoenix he's trying to circumvent the NHL entirely from word go. This whole attitude makes me wonder what kind of owner he'll be, when he shows little respect for the league and its protocols before he's even "in the club". It also sits wrong with me that he seems to start each campaign with press statements/releases, getting the Ontario sports public worked into a frenzy, ending up in the whole "Balsillie vs Bettman" thing and trying to leverage that populist support into getting what he wants. Part of it also stems from the fact that this always happens in the playoffs, once Toronto and Montreal are out of it, and it pulls coverage away from the remaining teams involved, with the media bias (they go where the people are) creating a "national" issue out of a local one.
I also think its unfair the way people in this country characterize Gary Bettman. First of all Bettman is more or less a spokesman for the NHL team owners and his actions reflect what THEY want. People come down on Bettman for the movement of Winnipeg and Quebec, calling him anti-Canadian, but at the same time one of the first expansion franchises under his watch was Ottawa, and when Edmonton and Ottawa were both in danger of being sold and moving (presumably south of the border), they were given chances to find local ownership and sponsourship which led to the saving of those franchises. He was also the commissioner that brought in the salary cap that made the game more competitive, instead of just being a league of haves and have-nots. Bettman also has said (now that our dollar isn't at 65 cents US) that the possibility of future expansion or relocation of teams to Canada isn't out of the picture. Now I'm not a huge fan ofthe guy: he's not my first choice as a commissioner and I think under his stewardship the NHL has over expanded (and subsequently dilluted the talent pool), especially into markets where its not been able to establish itself.
I didn't watch too carefully when the Rockies left Colorado to become the new Jersey Devils, or when Nordiques left Quebec City to become the Colorado Avalanche, or when the Minnesota Northstars left to become Dallas. I did watch more closely when the Winnipeg Jets moved to become the Coyotes, and being a northern Albertan I saw a LOT more of the efforts involved in keeping the Oilers in Edmonton. I empathize with fans losing their teams but at the same time I see some of the failures and have to admit objectively that the cities and thew NHL weren't a fit. I don't know if Phoenix can be viable for the NHL but at the same time, I think Phoenix deserves the chance Winnipeg, Edmonton and Ottawa all had, to try to keep their team. If no one wants to try then move it, but moving it shouldn't be the first option, as Mr Balsillie appears to want.
Damn. I almost wrote a book...