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Sour Balls

According to a column by Scott Burnside at now working its way through the news cycle, Jim Balsillie's camp is alleging that Gary Bettman interfered in his negotiations with Craig Leipold to purchase the Nashville Predators.

Excuse me, but is this really news? After having assured Bettman prior to the Stanley Cup Finals that he had no intention of relocating the team, and Bettman communicating to Balsillie that he expected him to make a good-faith go at making it work in Nashville, it became apparent that Balsillie had no intention of living up to either of those points. There was serious potential for a nasty legal battle if Balsillie continued pursuing "Hamilton or Bust" as his ownership philosophy, and in light of that, it makes sense that Bettman would put the brakes on things in order to protect the league (and any other owners who hoped to negotiate such leases in the future) from harm.

All we have here are some smoking emails (presumably leaked by Richard Rodier to stoke the "Fire Bettman" flames) that tell us a story we already knew. Balsillie's rash tactics sent alarm bells ringing, and Bettman did his job to protect the league's interests.

Jim Balsillie may well make a good NHL owner eventually (although I begin to doubt this more by the day), but he needs to play by the rules in order to join the club. The counterpoint to him perhaps is Boots Del Biaggio, who seems to be charting a patient, reasoned course towards franchise ownership. With multiple parties out there seeking expansion and franchise purchase opportunities, Balsillie needs to realize that the NHL isn't desperate for his money. If he truly wants to realize his dream of owning a team, he'll have to use a more politically savvy strategy to get there.

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