Very, very interesting news from Scott Burnside at ESPN. Burnside is reporting that Gary Bettman ordered Predators owner Craig Leipold to cut off team sale talks with Jim Balsillie and concentrate on selling the team to William "Boots" Del Biaggio III, who wants to re-locate the Preds to Kansas.
"We were advised by Mr. Leipold that the commissioner had found out about the existence of the negotiations and ordered him to immediately cease any further communications with us," Balsillie's legal representative, Richard Rodier, told ESPN.com this week.And more interesting:
In a series of e-mails obtained by ESPN.com, Leipold and Rodier discuss Bettman's alleged involvement in the breaking off of negotiations between the two sides and the commissioner's uneasiness with the prospect of a deal being signed between the two parties.
Still, the accusations raise questions about whether the commissioner overstepped his bounds. The issue could lead to a showdown with the NHL's board of governors over whether Bettman acted appropriately and with the best interests of the league. The board is scheduled to meet next in September, likely in Chicago.This is a must read. Who knows where this will lead but there is no doubt in my mind that people unhappy with Gary Bettman's vision for the NHL (and there are a lot of them) will view this information as a smoking gun.
On one side is Bettman, whose vision of the NHL continues to be one that includes teams scattered across America, even if many of those American markets are floundering. The failure of the Predators reflects badly on Bettman's vision. Their failure is his failure.
On the other side is Balsillie, who wishes to make the Predators the seventh Canadian team in a country whose love of the game seems to know no bounds. Balsillie has made it clear he would like to own an NHL team in Southern Ontario, specifically Hamilton, a blue-collar city west of Toronto. The six Canadian teams -- Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver -- currently generate one-third of the 30-team league's revenues.