How soon things change…

Only a month ago, Howard Berger and others wrote about how things were pretty much all good int he NHL.

And though it’s oddly out of fashion to lay kudos on commissioner Gary Bettman, there is little doubt he has adroitly guided the NHL through its most turbulent epoch. Bettman and deputy Bill Daly administer to an enormous, 30-team circuit that does not have an overbearing crisis at the moment — a triumph fans on both sides of the border should relish.

I wonder if Howard Berger wants to take back those words now. In the past few weeks we have learned that Nasville Predators part owner William ‘Boots’ Del Baggio has filed for bankruptcy, the league has threatened to boot the New York Rangers owner out of the league, and Anaheim Ducks owner Henry Samueli has been suspended from any involvement in the Ducks or the NHL after having plead guilty of making a false statement to the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding his involvement in manipulating stock options while at Broadcom.

That sounds pretty bad but the Nashville situation is potentially even more troublesome and I think we need to take a cautionary stance on the new Tampa Bay ownership as well. The Toronto Star is reporting that Gary Bettman was blindsided to find out that Los Angeles Kings owner Philip Anschutz and Minnesota Wild’s owner (and former Nashville Predators owners) Craig Leipold lent Boots Del Baggio a combined $17 million of the $25 million Boots paid for his share in the Predators. In Del Baggio’s purchase agreement he has an option to purchase all of the Predators if the situation in Nashville doesn’t improve and it is believed he would have moved them to Kansas City. Interestingly enough Philip Anschutz owns the arena in Kansas City where the moved Nashville Predators would play.

Clearly it seems the NHL didn’t do its homework on Del Baggio’s financial situation but the whole messy Nashville sale stinks with a lot of back room dealings from Liepold selling and then immediately buying the Minnesota Wild, to the league seemingly pushing Jim Balsille out of the picture in favour of local owners and Del Baggio, to other owners financing the deal. I think there is a lot more to this story than we know and I truly would be surprised if Bettman and his cartel are more involved in this than we have currently heard about.

One has to wonder if Gary Bettman’s control of all things NHL is coming near the end. How long will it be before several other owners, and the NHLPA, say enough is enough and give Gary the boot. He has continuously failed to find or adequitely perform due diligence on new ownership groups while seemingly keeping well financed billionaire Jim Balsillie out of the league. Something is clearly wrong in the NHL and it is time for Gary to pay the price.

James Mirtle has more on the messy situations the NHL is facing.