Posted: Nov 13, 2008, 1:07 AM
It's Hammer Time
Join Date: Mar 2004
Whining about NHL put-downs is a minor-league move
November 12, 2008
By Steve Milton
The Hamilton Spectator
Here’s a note to our friends Terry Whitehead and Bob Bratina and all the other folks on Hamilton city council who may be on the cusp of making an extremely serious mistake.
Don’t vote in favour of any kind of official reaction to recent stories in another newspaper that Hamilton hasn’t got the stuff to be a major league city and that the NHL would rather have a second team in Toronto than one in Hamilton.
If you want to affirm some people’s assumptions that this is a hick town, go right ahead and send a letter to the Globe and Mail, showing your wounded pride, then go meet the NHL commissioner and do the same thing. You’ll play right into Gary Bettman’s anti-Hamilton hands.
You’ll be admitting that you really have no clue what’s going on behind closed doors.
And you’ll be getting in the way of some very deep, and outwardly painful, work which Jim Balsillie has been conducting on behalf of this city.
First of all, Balsillie’s desire to relocate a team here — not Toronto, not Winnipeg and not Cambridge — is what stimulated this entire debate in the first place. When he took subscription requests for a Hamilton team, while in the process of trying to purchase the Nashville Predators, he incurred Bettman’s anger, and the commissioner passed it on to the 30 owners.
But it was necessary for Balsillie to demonstrate that he wasn’t going to play the same way other bids, all of which failed miserably, have been played. And less than a year later he did the unprecedented and near-impossible: he had people inside the NHL wondering if a second team in this market wasn’t indeed a good idea. And they wondered it out loud, as the Spec has reported for many months now.
Second — and it seems hard to believe that people who represent the city where The Spec is printed haven’t read this — for more than 20 years, this has always been about a second team for Toronto, as in the GTA. Hamilton happens to be the place where the rink is. And for councillors not to understand that is political naivete of the worst kind.
Third, Balsillie is the guy with the money, and he wants the team in Hamilton. Let him do the fighting for you. If you think he hasn’t done the job to this point, then go back and read the last few paragraphs, v-e-r-y slowly if necessary.
Fourth, the sample of NHL governors the Globe talked to was very small. They may not represent everyone’s views and they, too, may also mean GTA, rather than Toronto proper.
Fifth, Balsillie has been working behind the scenes to mend any broken fences with NHL governors, and to correct any disinformation which has been directed their way by the NHL head office. He’s been making nice progress in that regard and any public action by Hamilton council can only unearth all the doubts about this city again and undermine what Balsillie is doing.
Sixth, people and political bodies who whine about not being heard, never get heard. Their complaints seem to justify the tuning out.
Yes, it’s hard to see your city dissed by uninformed people, but the right decision here — the one that doesn’t involve political grandstanding — is to let it be and it will fade away. That requires maturity, so we’ll see if council has any.
Any kind of delegation, or letter, will not help land a team in Hamilton — not in the slightest. If anything, it will hurt: making the city look petty and thin-skinned.
Even a discussion of what was said by a few anonymous people about a situation — a fourth pro team in the Air Canada Centre? On what nights? — that is almost beyond hypothetical makes us look foolish and, well, definitely not major league.