Why the NHL needs Jim Balsille

Last week’s court ordered setback on Jim Balsille’s quest for an NHL team is not just a disappointment to the city of Hamilton. It’s a disappointment for the NHL.

Believe it or not, Balsille’s experience with RIM might be the jolt the NHL needs. Let’s look back to the last time a tech guy bought a major sports franchise.

When serial tech-entrepreneur, Mark Cuban bought the Dallas Mavericks in 2000, the NBA was struggling to find its way in the post Michael Jordan era. Cuban brought a new energy and the best aspects of the dot-com thinking to the NBA. He sat amongst the fans in jeans and a sweater (or a Mavericks T-shirt) cheering with the rest of them. He encouraged fan participation giving out an email address (this was before Facebook) where he took suggestions (the 3-sided shot clock was one of the implemented ideas). He treated his players like high-tech employees outfitting their lockers with a flat-screen television, a DVD player, headphones, and a video game console. He did the same for the visiting team (after all they were potential recruits).

Now I’m not suggesting Balsillie will be like Cuban, the two men’s temperaments could not be more different. However, I do believe that Balsillie will bring some fresh tech-inspired ideas to the NHL at a time the NHL really needs it.

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