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Loose Change: Why don't you like me?

You kind of get the feeling NHL commissioner Gary Bettman simply doesn’t like BlackBerry guru and franchise owner-wannabe Jim Balsillie.

The commish will claim it’s all about business and simply a case of having every prospective owner follow archaic established league guidelines. But Gary guards the NHL’s virtue like a domineering father would protect his 17-year-old daughter from the smooth-talking biker dude who just moved into town.

Balsillie, for his part, will do anything and pay anything (Note to Jim: it’s not the NFL. Hold out for that inevitable half-price sale) to secure himself a hockey franchise, provided he gets the authority to move it wherever he damn well pleases. This has irked (perhaps “annoyed” and possibly even “miffed”) the commissioner, who prefers to keep his dreams of pucks in the Land of the Cactus right beside his other dreams of hockey surpassing badminton in U.S. TV ratings; and that other one he had about candy-coated radial tires.

Bettman has twice “saved” NHL franchises from the grip of this filthy-rich, historically successful monster, who no doubt only wants to own a hockey club to fulfill some foolish notion of having the building full for things other than the Ringling Circus and Monster Truck Rallies. Oh you idealistic idiot.

Now the battleground is Phoenix. Balsillie wants the Coyotes (preferably on a flatbed) and Bettman is citing every writ, law and Biblical passage known to man to keep the team in a place where ice is normally only seen in cubes and away from an area that loves hockey as much as Miami residents evidently don’t.

Bettman has such vigor for battling Balsillie you can’t help but think it’s gotten personal – and maybe it has. Witness Bill Daly’s recent “We don’t start fights, but we end them” declaration to Balsillie, which ranks right up there with the “No, you’re stupid” response to the 2005 Dick Pound drug allegations for league managerial eloquence.

There are a number of theories as to why commissioner Bettman doesn’t like Balsillie.

1. It’s a success thing. Balsillie has a net worth of $1.7 billion. Bettman will have to work approximately 700 years at his present salary to equal that amount, assuming he’s stubborn enough and, frankly, that insanely-healthy to do something so pig-headed. Don’t laugh. When the commish puts his mind to something…

2. It’s an Ivy League thing. Bettman is Cornell Big Red and Balsillie Harvard Crimson. Perhaps Bettman is not as jealous of Balsillie’s academic blueblood as he is angry that both schools chose mascots of the same color. So much for so-called higher education.

3. It’s an age thing. Bettman is 57 years old, Balsillie is 48. Sure nine years doesn’t seem like a huge difference, but keep in mind that at nine years of age Balsillie had a lemonade stand generating almost $12 million in sales, so you can see how that could make an under-achieving lawyer-guy like Bettman (didn’t join the NBA until he was a decrepit 29 years old) mighty angry.

4. It’s a height thing. Neither man will ever damage a door frame (unless it’s in a smaller tree fort, which seems pretty juvenile for men of such stature to be toiling in), but Bettman is decidedly smaller than the relatively gargantuan Balsillie. Add that to age and income and it’s a wonder the commissioner hasn’t gone postal on the office staff.

5. It’s a bald thing. In all reality, Bettman has more hair than Balsillie, but that’s like saying a pimple is more beautiful than a blister. Either way, the 12 more strands of hair Bettman possesses won’t likely make him feel superior or sleep any better at night (although technically it might since they do add a nice cranial buffer, which could make for a restful night).

It’s a technology thing. Balsillie is Mr. Computer Wiz, Bettman has never been seen with any sort of computer or handheld device nearby. Maybe Gary has no idea what a BlackBerry even is and thinks Balsillie is just some rich, arrogant farming mogul. Could the commissioner simply be embarrassingly tech-deficient? I mean if hockey in the middle of the desert makes sense…

The preceding was purely fictional and meant for entertainment purposes only. By entertainment, we mean we hope you laughed while reading it, framing it, or burning it. Any similarities between this and actual events is strictly coincidental and frankly, dumb luck. Remember to remind your lawyer about the made-up part, OK?

Charlie Teljeur, creator of THN's hockeysockpuppettheatre cartoon, brings you Loose Change every second Tuesday through to June 22 and then will go on summer hiatus. Subscribe to The Hockey News today to have Charlie's cartoon delivered to you in each issue.

Want to talk to Charlie about love, life, or Loose Change? Email him at


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