It seems as though Jim Balsillie, Co-CEO of Research in Motion is poised to complete the deal that would net him ownership of the National Hockey League’s Nashville Predators. The big question that remains is whether the Canadian billionaire will leave the team in Tennessee or move it closer to his home town and the home of the BlackBerry, Waterloo, Ontario.
The deal to buy the team is awaiting approval from the NHL Board and again the question of moving the team may scupper the deal. Last year, Balsillie walked away from buying the Pittsburgh Penguins because the NHL blocked any chance of moving the team. Current NHL Commish, Gary Bettman, has gone on record saying if Nashville were to move he would like to see the team move to Houston or Kansas City in order to help the NHL get a better TV deal. Who is Bettman kidding? One game of the Stanley Cup finals was broadcast last week on NBC and it garnered the lowest prime time rating for any show ever. Ever. For any type of show. So, I don’t foresee Bettman’s Holy Grail of a huge TV deal showing up any time soon.
Balsillie is allegedly talking to the owners of the Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario about upgrades and a lease. That might get the owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Buffalo Sabres to move to quash the deal. Teams within 80kms of a new franchise can lobby the NHL to stop a deal and I am pretty sure both of those cities are less than 80 kms away from Hamilton. (Although why any city would admit that is beyond me.). Hamilton would also have to give up its AHL team the Bulldogs.
There is also the question of the lease in Nashville. There may be a clause that states should the Nashville arena owners extend the lease the team is bound to stay there until 2011.
Big news then for BlackBerry fans. I wonder if Balsillie would rename the new team the Hamilton BlackBerrys. We’ll keep you posted.