I really don't know where to start.
I've read so many views of the Pens' situation with prospective Jim Balsillie my head hurts. Usually it takes, oh I don't know, Christmas shopping to make it hurt this much.
But there's one predominant view that I believe everyone needs to take a step back and realize; This situation with Balsillie is not even close to being finished.
As a matter of fact, he may have never intended for the situation to BE finished.
Think about that.
Did anyone else notice the common demoninator in the comments from the NHL and the Penguins ?? That's right, the emphasis on the Isle of Capri winning the bid.
These are well-seasoned, smart businessmen. It's not an outlandish idea to suggest that this is a well-timed, public ploy by Balsillie and the Pens to exert enormous pressure on the PA Gaming Board to award the Pittsburgh slots license to the IOC.
In addition, according to Joe Starkey from the Trib, Balsillie stated Friday night "Right now, I'm not giving up on anything," said Balsillie, who was hosting a Christmas party last night at his home in Waterloo, Ontario. "I wish it could move forward."
There are a lot of Pens fans around the 'Net, the message boards and the blogs that are really slamming Balsillie this morning. Repeating their opinions towards Balsillie is unnecessary, I'm sure you guys can imagine their frustration and their anger. But in my view, this is a knee-jerk reaction, and those fans may not necessarily be looking at this in all points of view, and only that of a Penguins fan. And right now, you HAVE to look at this in the political point of view, because that is the predominant view that is driving this.
The primary question towards Balsillie's rejection of the deal is this; Did he pull out because he has ALWAYS had intentions on moving the team to Ontario, as has been speculated often (especially in the Canadian hockey media), or as I mentioned earlier, is this simply based on political motives calculated in cahoots with the Pens to exert that pressure upon the Gaming Board ??
During last night's Pens press conference during the 1st intermission, which basically was as useless as tits on a bull ("uh, you'd have to ask him" was the primary answer), Ken Sawyer stated that he spoke to Balsillie on Wednesday at the hearings in Harrisburg. And while he admitted that they were aware that Balsillie was having problems with the NHL, he had no indication that Balsillie would go as far as to pull the bid. So let me get this straight; Are you telling me that Balsillie would not tell Sawyer during face-to-face discussions that the possibility existed that he might pull his bid, but then goes ahead and does it two days later ?? As my Southern friends might say, that dog ain't huntin'.
Also, you have to put yourself in Balsillie's shoes as a businessman. Even if this is a political move, does he really want to sign an agreement that states that he will keep the Pens in Pittsburgh under ANY circumstances, AND that the NHL could take control of the franchise if the shit hits the fan, irregardless of his real intentions, that being to keep the team in Pittsburgh or not ??
Now, the focus shifts directly on the PA Gaming Board. Talk about pressure. They've already announced that they've moved the December 20th Board Meeting to a bigger venue, to accommodate the additional public interest. I'd say that interest just got ratched up a couple more notches. But this new development now raises new philosophical questions to the board. Do they actually have to take into account the ownership status of the Penguins in their discussions to award a slots license for the city of Pittsburgh ?? It's not like the Penguins don't have an owner now, it's just that the new prospective owner pulled his offer.
Balsillie's announcement also, of course, raises new possibilities concerning new and/or previous ownership bids for the Penguins. The main name I've read about 100 times since last night is Mark Cuban. Cuban freely admitted in October that he "screwed up" in not making a stronger bid for the Pens, especially after watching the Pens live against New Jersey, the game in which Malkin undressed the Devils' defense and Marty Brodeur.
But to me, it also re-raises this possibility; Assuming the IOC wins the slots license, does anyone believe that the Lemieux group could retain their ownership now, and simply acquire some additional investors, such as Cuban ?? I think there's a chance that this could be a possibility as well, but of course I have no way of knowing that.
Another person that has had his share of bashing in Pens' circles in the past is Gary Bettman. If the NHL's reported demands to Balsillie are accurate, Pens fans worldwide need to give one collective thank you to Bettman. Bettman and the NHL are clearly on the Pens' side on this one, and the Penguins fans need to acknowledge as much.
Mario must be one frustrated son of a bitch this morning. He probably just saw about 40 million clams leave his hands Friday (albeit probably temporarily). This ongoing soap opera, which has gone on now for about six years, looks like it's going to last a little while longer.
The real unfortunate part of this story is the Penguins themselves. The Pens are playing their best hockey since the Lemieux comeback season of '00-'01, in which they made it to the Eastern Conference finals. The attendance continues to be strong, despite Canadian media's continued bashing of a crowd of 12,000 for a Tuesday night game in December against the Panthers. Last night they had a sellout crowd of over 17,000 against the Islanders, who the NHL's scheduling gurus had decided to have the Pens play five times in under 60 days. They've got the two biggest up-and-coming stars in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but yet no one can discuss the Penguins without mentioning the ownership situation. Mark Recchi, who besides hometown boy Ryan Malone is the closest Pen to being a Pittsburgher, admitted last night that the situation is "scary".
We'll all see where this situation leads itself up to Wednesday, where I'm sure that there will be throngs of Pens fans on the edge of their seats.