I’ll be out most of the day in meetings (day job) but wanted to put some thoughts out on this whole Jim Balsillie-Phoenix-NHL Cage Match for CBJ fans. Because this directly affects you. I recommend that you stay tuned to James Mirtle and TSN as much as possible.
First, since the Coyotes are in the West and Balsillie’s plan is to move the team to Ontario, this pulls one team out of the Western Conference and unbalances the NHL and schedules.
The Red Wings were counting on a move to the Eastern Conference in the very near future. They are the senior Western team that happens to be in the Eastern Time Zone and have made no secret of their desire to play more games in the East, especially their old rivals like Toronto and Montreal. So this move by Phoenix might set them back and I don’t think they’re happy about this.
The Blue Jackets were also hoping to move East and were counting on a team like Atlanta or Florida to re-locate to another city in the Western United States, like Las Vegas or Kansas City. And that may still happen because Balsillie will open Pandora’s Box here and all kinds of moves might begin to happen. Heck, the Phoenix area might put out an offer to lure another NHL team now that it might have a vacant arena. So Mike Priest is not embracing this.
If you’re Dallas, Anaheim, Los Angeles, or even Colorado, you’re not going to be happy about losing a nearby opponent and thus seeing your travel costs go up.
Will Toronto and Buffalo sit by and watch a new team move into their turf? The answer is maybe. I would bet that if this move happens, it will be in two stages. The first stage will be to Hamilton where Balsillie already had a plan in place to play there when he contemplated buying the Predators. This is not good for Buffalo. The next stage will be to build an arena closer to the Waterloo-Cambridge area where RIM is based. This will have to be located in an area that is acceptable to the Maple Leafs. But I would count on them to oppose this whole thing until they are taken care of.
But the NHL is backed into a corner at this time. The Coyotes are in bankruptcy and nobody else has stepped forward with an offer. There was a rumor that Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago White Sox and a Phoenix-area resident, is interested. Reinsdorf is an expert at this game, having played Phoenix off against Chicago a few years ago to get a new stadium for his White Sox. But that is just a rumor and I would be curious as to where it came from. (Bettman’s office?) So the NHL cannot fight this offer because it would mean that they would have to continue supporting a bankrupt franchise while declining a valid and generous financial offer. Which NHL owner(s) is anonymously supporting Balsillie?