June 5, 2009

Toronto Maple Leafs blocking Balsillie

Maple Leafs are real power behind farcical war over Coyotes

I'm so not at all surprised by this. In fact, I've been wondering why it's taken so long to come out. It makes total sense once you realize that the NHL offices in Toronto are in the Air Canada Centre - a fact that not many American hockey fans aren't aware of. The so-called replay "War Room" is located there as well.

Why would any monopoly want competition? And, mistake me not, the Maple Leafs have a monopoly in southern Ontario. Tickets might cost a lot, and may be hard to come by, but you've got all kinds of merchandising options available there. Not to mention tv as well. Buffalo is the perfect neighbor because they draw almost no crowd away from the Leafs.

Add to the fact that the NHL and its owners want their cut of the expansion pie. Southern Ontario has long been thought of as a money pit. They don't want to move a team there because then that takes away from essentially free money. If a team were moved there, then only Toronto would get any money - in the form of a territorial infringement fee.

(For those that don't know, each NHL team has a 50-mile (80 km) buffer around the city limits of the town that they're located in. That's the only criteria that determines their exclusive territory. Another team can move into that territory, but in theory they have to have the permission of the established team - and pay them for it, of course. I'm not sure if that's legally enforceable or not, tho.)

Expansion is what both the Maple Leafs and the NHL want in that area. Not relocation. If Balsillie just wanted to own a team, then he'd probably have one by now. If he wanted to buy a team and relocate it to just about anywhere else, chances are decent that that probably would've happened by now as well. However, the sticking point is the location, not necessarily the man who's looking to buy his way into this exclusive fraternity. Although, I'm sure by now it's partly about the individual as well - not greasing the right palms, not sucking up in the socially approved manner, et cetera.

So even after this is decided in the American courts, the Canadian courts will probably have their say in this as well.

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