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Reader Submission: The Jim Balsillie Era

Here's a reader submission on Jim Balsillie by devoted Mondesi reader Worstavid:
The shortest sports team ownership in history has concluded, with the recent decision by Jim Balsillie to end his relationship with the Penguins before he even wrote the check. While there are many out there who were stunned by this announcement, a look at the bigger picture should clear up most of the confusion.

Jim Balsillie may come across initially as a smooth, polished businessman, but make no mistake about it, this guy can get down into the gutter with the best of them. The now-renowned “inventor” of the “Blackberry” pager had to pay, you may recall, a $612 million settlement for a patent infringement on his said “invention”.

With that as a backdrop we now fast-forward to 2006. Make no mistake dear Mondesi's House readers, you can now be assured Balsillie was swooping over Pittsburgh like a prehistoric Pterodactyl, ready to pounce on the local flightless bird population.

He met with Allegheny County’s Dan Onorato and Pittsburgh’s Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and apparently heard bad, er, good news from both of them that they were very well prepared to do whatever it would take to get the new arena built.

“Gulp, sounds like these guys are really serious about keeping their team,” Balsillie must have thought.

Next came his meeting with the State Gaming Board. Somewhere in a back closet, it can only be surmised that Balsillie was assured that, "Jim, everything will be OK, your arena will be built, one way or the other. Just be sure to keep that team in Pittsburgh.”

“MORE BAD NEWS”, Balsillie fumed privately.

But the straw that really broke Balsillie’s back came in the form of a memo of understanding, drafted by the attorneys of the National Hockey League at the behest of Commissioner Gary Bettman, a man who I mistakenly once thought was going to ruin this league. Bettman apparently is good at smelling a rat and he has subsequently developed quite a rapport with the most loyal fans in the league. He knew that this king-sized, highly-sophisticated, cuff-linked-wearing, rat was planning nothing but a middle-of-the-night, Baltimore Colts-style attempted move to Canada. This was not going to happen on Bettman’s watch, so he drafted a very severe set of criteria for Balsillie to agree with. To Bettman’s credit, the terms were tantamount to Balsillie eating D Con.

So Penguin fans this is not a day to be remorseful, because the big rat, billionaire Jim Balsillie withdrew his offer to buy the Penguins. No, it’s a day to be rejoicing in the streets! The Penguins are still rooted right here in Pittsburgh where they belong. You know that, I know that and most importantly, Gary Bettman, our beloved Commissioner, knows that too.So what happens next? Will the big-mouth, braggart, Mark Cuban, step to the plate as he suggested he would after he learned that Balsillie had initially won the bid? Please, let’s hope not. Having Cuban owning the team here might be worse than Balsillie owning the Kitchener Penguins in Ontario!

Does anyone remember what happened in the ‘80s when the Galbreaths couldn’t find a buyer for the Pirates? The team was sold to a consortium of local corporations, each of whom had a vote on the board of directors. Local politicians executed this plan and although it wasn’t the best option, it nevertheless was an option.The Penguins right now have the greatest assemblage of young talent that this league may have ever seen. They’re on the verge of getting a new arena…for free. They may go on a run of Stanley Cups unrivaled since the Edmonton Oilers. Does this sound like a bad investment to you? I didn’t think so. Dan and Luke should be sitting down with the Pittsburgh money people right now and floating this idea to them, because unlike the Pirates’ saga, this team could be earning big-time money for many years to come.


Anonymous said...

Gary Bettman is to be applauded for his role in blocking the "proposed" move to Southern Ontario. I'm surprised he acted so forcefully.

I agree with you that true local ownership is ideal for the Pens, but after a few years of shopping the team, if Lemieux and his group can't find a local buyer by now, that buyer does not exist.

As for Mark Cuban, I can't imagine what would be so bad about his involvement? If he can take a dud of a franchise like the Dallas Mavericks and turn them into a perennial contender, and sought-after attraction in Dallas, it would make sense that he could do wonders with the Pens.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, what's wrong with Cuban?

He's a lifelong Pens fan and native Pittsburgher.

When a guy who is already a diehard fan of the franchise lives his dream and buys the childhood team he once idolized, only good things can happen!!

Just look at Dan Snyder!

.... DOH!