Kitchener businessman – and more importantly billionaire – Jim Balsillie who has had his work cut out getting the National Hockey League to pay attention to him, is trying once again to bend the ear of hockey’s czars.
Balsillie, who has made overtures to purchase and relocate financially troubled NHL teams to Southern Ontario, has formally offered to buy the Phoenix Coyotes. The Coyotes filed for bankruptcy Tuesday (May 5) and Balsillie offered to drop $212.5 million on the table to bring a seventh NHL franchise to Canada. His offer is conditional on the Coyotes moving to our area, although it’s not clear whether their home would be in Hamilton.
“The current team ownership asked that I table an offer to purchase the Coyotes and significant discussions resulted in an offer that is in the best interests of the franchise, the NHL, and the great hockey fans of Canada and Southern Ontario,” said Balsillie in a press release. “I am excited to move closer to bringing an NHL franchise to what I believe is one of the best un-served hockey markets in the world, Southern Ontario. A market with devoted hockey fans, a rich hockey history, a growing and diversified economy and a population of more than seven million people.”
While the financial details are being massaged and the courts start the legal maze of paperwork, Balsillie, who made his fortune through RIM and Blackberry, is encouraging his potential market to jump on his bandwagon. He is reaching out to local hockey fans to get the league’s attention, especially that of commissioner Gary Bettman, who in the past hasn’t been impressed with the suitor’s bold efforts. Balsillie campaigned to buy the Nashville Predators but rankled the NHL with his aggressive public efforts.
“It’s particularly important for Canadian fans to demonstrate the kind of hockey market we have and the passion we share for this game,” he said in the release. “We want those Canadian voices who want a seventh NHL team in Canada to be heard throughout the North American NHL market. Canadian fans can log on to www.makeitseven.ca to add their voices to the call for an NHL team in Southern Ontario.”
This would be Balsillie’s fourth venture into NHL team buying in two years.
Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum and its 17,000 spectator capacity, has repeatedly been mentioned as a home for an NHL team whenever relocation or expansion surfaces. Copps current design, however, falls short of present NHL standards.
Meanwhile, at the request of the Coyotes franchise owner, Balsillie has also agreed to post debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing of $17 million (U.S.). DIP is bridge financing provided when a company is in an insolvency proceeding which allows it to continue to operate through the proceeding in advance of a restructuring or sale.
The Phoenix Coyotes relocated from Manitoba before the beginning of the 1996-97 season, where they previously existed as the Winnipeg Jets.