Full disclosure: Inasmuch as I can be said to hate anyone, I hate Gary Bettman. He embodies nearly every human trait I find detestable: colossal arrogance; pigheadedness; a marked inability to perceive reality; an equally marked inability to admit failure. Bettman's only saving grace is that he's the commissioner of the NHL and not, say, a former U.S. President.
Still...as a lifelong fan of the game of hockey, I despise Gary Bettman. So far as I can tell, every questionable development in the game, from the FOX puck to shootouts to teams where teams have no business existing and a host of others besides--every single questionable development can ultimately be laid at Bettman's feet. And the good that still exists in hockey can be said to be there despite Bettman's best efforts.
Take Alex Ovechkin, for instance. This guy is a walking, talking (or perhaps more like jiving and high-fiving) billboard for the NHL. He's comparable in talent to Lemieux and Gretzky, in my eyes, anyway, and with the added bonus of 30 arenas full of personality. Any competent league would be marketing Ovie's ass off. But Bettman's Hockey League hardly bothers. They've pinned what little marketing they do on Sidney Crosby, who (while talented) has all the personality of a just-Zamboni'd sheet of ice.
But this business with Jim Balsillie, now. God forbid a billionaire hockey fanatic with a thriving business should be allowed to buy a team in dire financial straits and move it to a huge, almost untapped market. That would make an intolerable amount of SENSE. Such a move would be win-win for the NHL. It would dramatically increase revenues, which are tied to player salaries (thanks again to Bettman). It would create several instant and heated rivalries with geographically close teams like Toronto, Buffalo and Detroit. The only losers would be the fans in Phoenix...but perhaps Balsillie could be persuaded to put them all on a bus and move them north too.
But nonsense can't abide sense, and Mr. Nonsense himself can't abide Balsillie. The Research In Motion boss, twice before denied membership in a club he dearly wants to join, is now forcing Bettman to concede his incompetence. Such a tactic is infuriating to a man as divinely convinced of his omnipotence as Gary Bettman seems to be.
The court clash between these two titans gets underway tomorrow. Trust me when I say it will rival anything seen on the ice this playoff. And you know who I'm rooting for...GO JIM GO!