Jim Balsillie never told Montreal newspaper the Canadiens were for sale

MONTREAL – Jim Balsillie denies telling a French-language newspaper that the Montreal Canadiens are for sale.

Balsillie’s spokesman said the head of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion was shocked to hear about the story that appeared in a Montreal newspaper.

“He didn’t know about it, nor did I, until this morning,” Toronto lawyer Richard Rodier told The Canadian Press on Friday.

“He says he did not say the Montreal Canadiens were for sale.”

Rodier said Balsillie was quick to send an apology to Canadiens owner George Gillett.

“He has a tremendous amount of respect for the Montreal Canadiens organization, and for Mr. Gillett personally,” he said.

Gillett and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman both denied Friday that the club is for sale.

Balsillie has met with Gillett on a number of occasions, but they never engaged in talks about the sale of the hockey club, Rodier said.

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“There’s never been any discussion whatsoever about any investment in the Montreal Canadiens,” he said.

Balsillie has been trying to buy an NHL franchise in recent years but has been unsuccessful in his pursuits.

Rodier said Balsillie, a lifelong Habs fan, was asked by the newspaper if he would consider moving the club to Ontario if he owned it.

The billionaire answered that relocating the storied team out of Montreal would be a sin, Rodier added.

“Whether that was somehow morphed into interest in buying the Canadiens, or something like that, who knows?”

The spokesman said Balsillie still hopes to one day own and operate an NHL franchise.