Saturday, June 23, 2007

Balsille's exciting options.

There seems to be a setback in the Balsille-Hamilton Predators romance. The Predators current owner says nothing is going on. There's always Phoenix, Atlanta, Florida, Tampa Bay, and another half dozen teams guaranteed to either lose money, or barely make a profit forever in lacklustre hockey markets.

Can someone tell me what the NHL has against putting teams in viable and hockey mad places?

Balsille Preds deal or no deal, I've brought out my crystal ball and am making predictions. It's a bit blurry, but I see one of two things happening.

If Balsille gets the Predators, they will come to Hamilton in one year, two at the most. During that time, Balsille will be racking up draft picks and talent consistent with what the team's started to do already via the Vokoun to Florida trade and trumping free agency by sending high profile unrestricteds to Philly for a first round pick.
Expect a couple more moves in the short term, but continued patience. You can always get more future picks right before the trade deadline if you play your cards right. By the time the Predators come to Hamilton, they will be overflowing with young talent comparable to the current Penguins.
The next move: Expect some of this talent and a wad of cash to move to Pittsburgh for Sydney Crosby. The primary goal of such a move will be to piss off Gary Bettman for interfering in his previous bid to buy the Penguins.

If Balsille does not get the Preditors, my prediction is equally, if not even more enticing. The World Hockey Association, (WHA), existed from 1972 to 1979. They directly rivalled the NHL, forcing the NHL to expand into other markets to compete. The WHA's creation was a result of untapped markets and their willingness to pay more than the NHL wages dished out by a cartel of profit-driven owners.

The league eventually failed, with a handful of the stronger market teams, they merged into the NHL. The Edmonton Oilers dynasty was part of this expansion.

The ingredients for a strong rival league have never been better than they are now. The NHL owners once again have limited players salaries with a salary cap. A rival league could offer someone like Crosby what he's worth, rather than the maximum seven or eight million he makes in Pittsburgh right now. To put things in perspective, a Los Angeles soccer team is paying David Beckham fifty million per year over five years to play for them. Beckham is a waning and aging star known as much for his smile and pop star wife as for his talent. A great player, but his skills definitely aren't worth 50 million.

While low salaries coupled with refusal to expand created the rival WHA league before, there are three ingredients leading to a rival league now.
1) incompetent expansion,
2) instituting salary caps to make that expansion viable, and
3) improved international relations and economies.

Teams in a new league would not go to shaky spots like Las Vegas, Kansas, or pretty much any city below a geographic line drawn from Boston, through Philly and over to L.A.

Instead, there would be a North American League and a European League. Higher salaries means stars like Sydney Crosby would be better off playing for a team like Hamilton.

Who would you rather see, the Hamilton Blackberries with Sydney Crosby vs the Moscow Dynamo with Ovechkin. Or the Phoenix Coyotes with Shane Doan vs the Columbus Blue Jackets with Sergei Federov?

Crosby is good for the US market, but is the US market good for Crosby?
While big names such as Nike would sign Crosby to huge advertisment contracts regardless of where he plays, being on a Canadian team would increase his local brand appeal tenfold. Being on a Canadian team in an international league even more so. Remember Gretzky's spinning hockey game, his lunch box, the retarded kid going "Gretzky!" and whatever else he happened to sell. Canadian businesses would line up to get his endorsement. Crosby merchandise would go through the roof.

Good for hockey!

What the NHL doesn't need is more useless market teams. It's time places who shouldn't even have a team stop winning the cup.

Stealing the Stanley Cup.

Donated by Governor General and converted hockey enthusiast Lord Frederick Stanley of Preston. He wrote out five conditions for the awarding of the Stanley cup when he introduced it in 1892. These conditions prove it is not the property of the NHL.

The original intention of the Stanley Cup, as donated by Lord Stanley, is outlined as follows.

1) The winners shall return the Cup in good order when required by the trustees so that it may be handed over to any other team which may win it.
2) Each winning team, at its own expense, may have the club name and year engraved on a silver ring fitted on the Cup.
3) The Cup shall remain a challenge cup, and should not become the property of one team, even if won more than once.
4) The trustees shall maintain absolute authority in all situations or disputes over the winner of the Cup.
5) If one of the existing trustees resigns or drops out, the remaining trustee shall nominate a substitute.

In lieu of a later dispute, the trustees passed further rules regarding the Stanley cup.

6) The Cup is automatically awarded to the team that wins the title of the previous Cup champion's league, without the need for any other special extra contest.
7) Challengers for the Cup must be from senior hockey associations, and must have won their league championship. Challengers will be recognized in the order in which their request is received.
8) The challenge games (where the Cup could change leagues) are to be decided either in a one-game affair, a two-game total goals affair, or a best of three series, to the benefit of both teams involved. All matches would take place on the home ice of the champions, although specific dates and times would have to be approved by the trustees.
9)Ticket receipts from the challenge games are to be split equally between both teams.
10)If the two competing clubs cannot agree to a referee, the trustees will appoint one, and the two teams shall cover the expenses equally. If the two competing clubs cannot agree on other officials, the referee will appoint them, and the two clubs shall also pay the expenses equally
11)A league could not challenge for the Cup twice in one season.

Revive the World Hockey Association. But this time, include the hockey world markets across the sea to create a true, robust, and exciting league.

Balsille, if anyone can pull this off.

I'll wait in line to buy my ticket.

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