The NHL can say whatever it wants about Mr. Balsillie's "character and integrity". The reality is, though, that he has been up front about his intentions to own an NHL team and move it to souther Ontario (I won't use the dreaded "H" word, out of sensitivity to the squeamishness of the NHL regarding Hamilton...oops...I used the "H" word). He also has his own money, which he did not need to raise under false pretenses. He also has, at the very least, the "shell" of an arena to move the team into.
Would that other NHL owners be able to say the same thing - even those not currently doing time in prison. The fact is, NHL owners have made for a reliable and consistent parade of rogues, criminals, crooks (from Harold Ballard, to Peter Pocklington, to Bruce McNall, to Boots Del Baggio to Eugene Melnyk). The biggest knock against Balsillie? He's "arrogant"....arrogant. Like owning one of the most successful high-tech businesses in North America somehow renders his "character and integrity" unfit for NHL ownership. Well, if the aforementioned are the standard-bearers, then Gary Bettman is probably right; Balsillie has no place alongside them.
The NHL has tipped its hand by entering its own pathetic bid for the Phoenix Coyotes. They have this pathological obsession with keeping the game out of Hamilton (eeek! I said it again), that's going to cost the existing NHL owners, even the law-abiding ones, a boatload of money in the short and long term. Maybe if the current NHL Board of Governors weren't so beholden to Bettman for his handling of the 2004-2005 lockout, they would actually welcome the infusion of cash into the League that comes with Balsillie's bid and likely compensation fee to Buffalo and Tornoto (as if the latter really needed it!). Even if it means a team in stinky-smelly-non-deep-south-American Hamilton.
In the mean time, I am on the verge of telling the NHL to go to hell, Leafs and all. There are marriages that have ended after a longer period than I have been betrothed to the Toronto Maple Leafs. I may have to find something else to do on Saturday nights this winter. Like read. Like books like Leafs Abomination by Dave Feschuk and Michael Grange.