The NHL Needs Jim Balsillie

I’ve let this story drift for a few days to read what others have to say.  You can pretty much divide the Main Stream Media into two national camps.  The U.S. MSM tends to write skeptical pieces about Balsillie and the Canadian writers are more supportive.  That’s a very big generalization from me, but that is what I see.

What I do know is that Jim Balsillie is from a very average background, is extremely intelligent, and very successful.  He did not inherit any wealth to make this purchase.  He earned his billions by co-founding a company that delivered a top-notch wireless product, pioneering the smartphone industry and overcoming the stigma of being an outsider in the corporate world.  RIM worked very hard to make the BlackBerry the standard for corporate wireless communications and this was accomplished under Balsillie’s leadership.

Balsillie is a scratch golfer and triathlete and also plays hockey in the local men’s league.  From what I’ve been told, he is very good for a 48 year-old and very competitive.

Why I say the NHL needs him is because he would inject some new thinking and energy into the NHL Board of Governors and challenge the old ways and thinking.  The old thinking that passively let the league go without a major TV presence in the United States, that has a seat of the pants video review policy, and expanded into markets in the Southern U.S. without doing any homework.  Balsillie’s company had to overcome the IBM-Microsoft-Intel cartel that the corporate world adheres to; can you imagine Jim Balsillie siting quietly when the NHL decided it would not do business with ESPN anymore?

Yes, he is rocking the boat with his attempt to buy the Coyotes and establish them in the Greater Toronto market ahead of everyone else.  But how many years do you think it will be before a second team is located in that market without this attempt?  Perhaps Balsillie will fail again, but I bet the NHL now has to proceed down a path that will lead to a second team in Greater Toronto in the near future.

In this current NHL community of financially struggling teams, it should be a welcome sight to see someone with Balsillie’s wealth and intelligence trying to join the club.  He would be an active and engaged owner, not a person who uses a hockey team to compliment an entertainment company or real estate group.  The NHL almost lost the Chicago franchise until an enthusiastic group took over and followed simple, fan-friendly marketing stategies.  Competition makes all of us better, from hockey players to hockey team owners.  Why should the Toronto Maple Leafs have it easy?

I look forward to this battle.  It will make a lot of people honest.

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