by SENShobo on 12/12/08 at 03:23 PM ET
From Ken Campbell of The Hockey News,
Over the last little while, the NHL has accepted a guy who makes slasher movies and a former NHLer over Jim Balsillie. It enthusiastically took in William Del Biaggio over Jim Balsillie. It allowed Craig Leopold to divest himself of a money-losing franchise, only to land a lucrative one in Minnesota. And still Balsillie sits on the outside looking in.
Gee, you’d think a guy would be discouraged by this time. But not Balsillie. I visited the BlackBerry magnate at his offices in Waterloo, Ont., for an upcoming story in The Hockey News and came away with the distinct impression he isn’t going anywhere when it comes to his pursuit of an NHL team.
“I would absolutely love it to happen and I hope it will happen and I want it to happen,” Balsillie said for a piece that will appear in the Dec. 29 issue of THN, “and I’m somebody who stays with things. I’m predictable and I’m consistent. I’m a passionate person, to the point of too much sometimes in some people’s minds. It doesn’t seem so to me, but I’m sure it is for some.”
None of this is a surprise to me, even as some might stare wide-eyed when they read of his openness to cooperation, not a colour he’s been painted with all that much, especially of late.
The last time I heard Balsillie speak, he sounded every bit as passionate a hockey fan as any I’d ever met, stymied in his attempts to gain a franchise, both public and private ones. At some point though, it’s going to become very hard to keep a billionaire away from the League, and to keep teams desperate to end their losses away from Balsillie’s billions. Hockey will be better for it, though that day has yet to dawn, franchises and opportunities not yet ripe for such a move, and the League certainly nowhere near ready for any expansion.
How he’ll come into a franchise, where it will be based, how many pockets he’ll have to fill to get there, I cannot say. But Canada is more than able to support another team. RIM has been known for its extravagant employee events, gathering people from its offices to converge on private concerts with the likes of Aerosmith and others. It was suggested that he might buy the Sabres (quickly denied) and have the team play some games across the border in Hamilton. Were he to base a team in Hamilton or Waterloo, I could see his passion going to far as to give area residents ample ability to attend the games, perhaps helping to organize shuttles from nearby but not public transit accessible cities for ticket buyers to opt into.
The passion of Balsillie for hockey, and philanthropy, is gargantuan; the man driven but also calm, cool, and approachable, from humble beginnings in Peterborough, ON. His life is a feel good story, exactly what the League needs now, in time possibly more than ever before.
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